CoW could disconnect water to 3 800 houses… wants govt to write off municipal debt

by Selma Ikela

Windhoek

Given the low level of water in the dams supplying Khomas Region and the capital in particular, some 3 800 households in Windhoek could have their water disconnected if they do not reduce their consumption to below 40 000 litres of water per month, which is the volume of an average-sized swimming pool.

City of Windhoek strategic executive finance officer George Esterhuizen revealed that they have identified clients whose water consumption exceeds 40 000 litres and have put a task team in place to engage the residents to reduce their water consumption.



Esterhuizen explained this during a recent budget presentation to the media where he also spoke about clients who collectively owe the city N$515 million in outstanding municipal bills, amongst others. He said many households are consuming more than 40 000 litres, mainly by watering their gardens. He also said it could be they have water leakages that should be fixed to avoid the wastage of water, the supply of which is extremely low in the central areas.

“They will be given a timeframe to comply with the city’s request to amend their water consumption. If they do not comply their water will be disconnected, because a lot of water is being consumed by those 3 800 clients. We need to come to the actual facts as to why they are using so much water,” Esterhuizen remarked.

The implementation of the City’s water-saving measures comes at a time when the capital faces a major water crisis. The combined water levels in the central catchment dams, Swakoppoort, Von Bach and Omatako, that provide the central areas with water was this week recorded at 10.4 percent of capacity.

Esterhuizen said there are measures in place to assess how they can save water and compel clients to reduce their consumption by either fixing existing leaks or cutting consumption.

Some of the large water consumers include public institutions, such as schools. Esterhuizen, however, indicated that they are still categorising the list to determine who exactly these 3 800 clients are.

“The City believes that one individual is allowed to use 90 litres of water per day, which for a household of six people amounts to 16.2 cubic metres per month. Forty cubic metres is, therefore, more than double the allowable amount, indicating water wastage which will result in immediate disconnection,” he warned.

Esterhuizen also said they have contacted school principals, who furnished details on the number of learners at each school in order to calculate the number of litres allowable per school.

“We have made those calculations and we communicated with the schools. We have given them targets, which include control measures, such as repairing leaking taps and informing students to use less water.”

He said the City’s customers owe the municipality N$515 million in arrears and City officials will need to engage various agencies and experts to solicit their input before proceeding to collect the outstanding debt.

“We will relook at what can be recovered and what is not possible to recover from the clients. That list [of who can and who cannot pay their debts] will be submitted to council and a way forward will be decided on, whether to write it off or if there is another option,” he stated.

He explained that last year the City initiated a process of looking at the circumstances of vulnerable people, which will be presented to council to decide how to proceed with assisting indigent households with municipal debts. The list will also have to be submitted to the Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Sophia Shaaningwa, for final approval.

Further, Esterhuizen said the City owes central government N$381 million in loan repayments and although the municipality has been paying, it has of late become more difficult to make such huge payments.

“We have already submitted to government to consider writing off debts in the past. We will resubmit our plea for government to write off those outstanding debts.

“The main reason we want government to write off the debts is that as long as those debts are on our books it makes it difficult for the City to go to financial institutions and get good loans on good terms,” he stated, adding that it also affects the cost of the loan and if the loans are costly it has a direct impact on tariffs.

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