Analysis: PATSON PHIRI
IN RECENT weeks, print media has been awash with ‘letters to the editor’ complaining about service by Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) in Kwamwena-Vorna Valley and Ndeke.
The source of the laments has been long spells at which water is supplied to those areas and alleged high bills.
For the record, these areas have an independent water supply system that is not linked to the rest of the city which is serviced by Iolanda water treatment plant in Kafue.
For the second record, I am not saying that these are the only residents who may be affected by the absence of consistent and constant supply but I have chosen to address them because they face unique problems not related to Iolanda water treatment plant which services the bulk of the city.
Just last week, we had a letter written by an anonymous author in the esteemed Zambia Daily Mail to the effect that supply does not correspond with billing.
Another letter also last week was from a resident of Ndeke who only identified himself as JK that supply was erratic and the word disappointed was not missing in his letter.
There have been a few others before these and some were not very kind in their tabulation of indignation. But I will not focus on the tone of their language.
What is key to me is that there is a complaint that needs to be addressed. People react to situations in different ways.
I choose to address the source of ire of customers in Kwamwena-Vorna Valley and Ndeke and not the manner in which the displeasure has been shared.
The position is that these areas are supplied by commercial boreholes situated within the areas.
It should be noted that when Millennium Challenge Account Zambia (MCAZ) completed the works for water reticulation system in the areas, only a partial handover to LWSC was made to begin operations on July 1, 2018. This was only 20 percent of supply capacity since the rest of the boreholes were still in the offing.
Construction of the additional boreholes has since been completed. The boreholes are near National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (NASIR) and these will benefit Ndeke and Vorna Valley and another set of three boreholes are meant for Kwamwena.
These should bring us to 100 percent supply capacity and that is the time we are waiting for.
The only addition is that delays have occurred from connecting them to power so that they supplement the existing bore holes.
On our part, full payment has been made and acknowledged by Zesco. I have had engagements personally with the directorate of engineering at the power utility firm and I have been assured that they have started mobilising to start connecting the boreholes so that normal supply resumes without delay.
On Wednesday, December 05, 2018, I actually witnessed a team from Zesco on the two sites laying the necessary effects for connectivity and the word from them was that before the end of the week, the process should be over.
On the issue of billing, all these areas are metered and the amounts of money to constitute billing are calculated on the basis of readings which reflect consumption.
Allow me also to state that LWSC produces and distributes water at a high cost than the bills our customers receive.
The amount complained of by the resident in Kwamwena in one of the letters is K250 for that one month. I also received a complaint through Radio Phoenix by a resident of Ndeke and the bill was K600.
From my rough calculation, a bill of K250 translates to K8 per day reflecting 1.5 cubic meters or 1,500 litres. By further interpretation, this translates to 7 x 200 litre drums of water.
Now, can someone seriously believe that 7 drums full of water at K8 per day is expensive?
In other words, customers who receive bills of K250 per month are paying K8 per day. If it were true, would it raise a complaint if they were charged K8 per day for seven drums?
The point is that they consume more than 7 drums equivalent in a month even though that’s what they pay. Water supply for one day goes beyond K600 and no one is charged K600 per day.
The point is that even though water was supplied for 7 days out of 30 days, the amount demanded by LWSC is not even 10 percent of what should constitute a normal bill.
Let me state that LWSC spends colossal sums of money on electricity to pump water from the boreholes, treat it and eventually supply to each household. That is besides other overhead costs in the production and supply chain.
I have on many occasions challenged the audiences I have met to compare LWSC bills with many other services we pay for in the country.
Our services are way below the amount of money we spend on procuring other services of much less value compared to water.
In my opinion, customers should be more willing to pay K250 for water in a month than spending colossal sums of money on other needs which may be of lesser importance but more costly than water. Think about this.
The author is LWSC Marketing and Public Relations Manager.
Analysis: PATSON PHIRI