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Water rate hike - NWC bills to rise this month as OUR grants 18 per cent increase

Published:Tuesday | October 8, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Residents taking a streetside bath at a fire hydrant at Charles Street and Rum Lane recently. The commodity was made even more precious yesterday with the announcement of a 13 to 18 per cent hike in water bills. - File

Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter

The majority of National Water Commission (NWC) customers will see an 18 per cent hike in their bills come month end, even though the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) granted an increase at a lower band of 13 per cent to others.

That is because persons who will pay the upper end of the increase do not pay the NWC for sewerage services, and they are in the majority.

If you are an NWC customer whose house is not connected to the central sewerage system, this month's bill would rise to $2,295 (before taxes) if the previous bill was $1,945.

A customer attached to the central sewerage system who used to pay a monthly bill of $2,926 will have to fork out some $3,320 for his water bill this month end.

The NWC increases follow the utility company's application for a 19 per cent increase on rates in April.

In a statement issued late yesterday, the OUR said the bill increases took effect last Thursday on October 3.

However, many persons are taking issue with the rate increases and complaining of poor service from the NWC.

"Absolutely ridiculous! Paying more for droplets of water and scheduled Thursday lock-offs is nothing short of ludicrous," Bridgeport, Portmore, resident Orlando Bailey exclaimed when asked how he viewed the announced increases.

Blake Allen, a young businessman, said he expects the increase to affect the bottom line of his recently opened sports bar.

"It (the NWC increase) will definitely affect business in the long run, because it would mean more money for bills and less money to spend. And when my lease expires, which includes water, there may be an increase," Allen noted.

The OUR release also said it has now begun the process of separating rates for potable water and sewerage system.

"The bill impact of the adjustments will be overall increases of 13 per cent on accounts which reflect water and sewerage charges and 18 per cent on accounts which do not pay for sewerage services," the statement read.

However, communication manager at the NWC, Charles Buchanan, told The Gleaner that majority of the water company's customers have accounts that do not require sewerage services.

"Most persons are water alone. Only in some urban centres do we have central sewerage services. So only persons in specific housing schemes across the country have central sewerage systems and other centres like in parts of Kingston, most of Portmore, parts of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril," Buchanan said.

Therefore, this means that the vast majority of NWC customers will be seeing an 18 per cent increase.

The NWC last received a 23 per cent rate increase from the OUR in 2008, after the company applied for a 44 per cent increase.

In addition to the request for the 19 per cent increase in April, the NWC had also requested that the OUR allow the utility company to collect a security deposit from customers.

However, the OUR has denied this request and also reduced the K-factor (an OUR-determined fee, calculated on bills, for the NWC to fund approved projects to improve service to customers) from 27 per cent to 14 per cent.