Namibia: Windhoek Water Bills Shock

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Tap water (file photo).

Hundreds of Windhoek residents were last week shocked to receive water bills that were twice or three times their normal monthly charges.

A frustrated Goreangab resident, Ndilula Ndeutapo, said his water bill went from N$1 137,65 in December to N$6 216 in February.

"When it is high," Ndeutapo said, "it is around N$800. I checked for leakages or a burst pipe around the yard, but found nothing."

Angelica Daniel, who stays in Windhoek North, said she paid N$1 230 in December, but her current bill had shot up to N$11 965.

Her sister Bianca's bill went from N$1 700 in December to N$10 465 last month.

Another client who did not want to be named said her water bill averaged N$1 000 a month, but now it is N$5 000.

"In these difficult economic times, they are overcharging the people. Imagine what is next for electricity," the client charged.

City of Windhoek spokesperson Lydia Amutenya told The Namibian last week that they did not communicate effectively to the public when they detected that residents were not charged for the correct usage.

Amutenya said since the city was experiencing a water crisis, they gazetted a new tariff on 1 August 2018. The city thus implemented the new tariff in January, and it's reflected in the February bills.

She said mandatory water-saving measures were to be enforced through a water tariff system called domestic times of limited water availability tariffs.

Limited water availability tariffs replaced the usual water consumption tariffs charged when there is no water scarcity.

Amutenya added that the residents were paying the same amount, but for less water.

"More for less, as a saving strategy, merely changing the sliding scale for many kilolitres," she said.

Under the old tariffs, the consumption of less than one kilolitre (kl) per day or less than 30 kl per month cost N$33,20, while those using less than 1,5 kl per day or less than 45 kl per month pay N$61.

Those households who use more than 1,5kl per day or more than 45 kl per month pay N$141,11.

With the limited water availability tariffs or the new sliding scale, one kl per day was reduced to less than 0,73kl per day, which is equivalent to less than 22 kl per month, but is charged at the same old rate of N$33,20.

For those who consumed around 45 kl for N$61, they will be now be charged the same amount, but for less than 30kl of water. Under the new tariff, residents pay N$141,11 for consuming about one kilolitre per day, down from 1,5 kl per day set in the previous sliding scale system.

The kilolitres were reduced by 26% for the first category and by 22% for the last two, but the rate remained the same as in the old tariff.

The city will continue with this new water tariffs until the water situation improves, Amutenya stated, conceding that the residents had not been informed well in advance of the implementation of the new water tariffs.

She said when residents submitted their readings through the SMS system in January 2019, the SMS system crushed, and the city resorted to estimating December and January readings.

"The combination of the two - the new tariffs system and the estimation - led to unexpectedly high water bills for the residents," she added.

However, resident Dewald Lindecke said the city should have informed the public sooner.

"They could have announced it in the press, and informed the public that we are out of water, and need to save water. They could have advised the residents so [that] people made the necessary arrangements. Now, they just implemented.

"I could make my choice between watering my garden, or pay a N$400 water bill, but they did not give me this choice," Lindecke lamented.

He added that if one goes to the City of Windhoek offices to say they cannot pay, they are told to go to debt management to make payment arrangements, which is difficult for an individual who is used to paying N$1 000.

"They are here buying new GTI Golf vehicles while they are charging us high fees to fund them. They do not listen to us, those people," Lindecke stressed.

Another disgruntled resident, who phoned The Namibian to report their experience after hearing about the new tariff and the low dam levels, asked what strategy that is of increasing tariffs if you cannot use the money to increase the supply?

"Where are they taking our hard-earned money? This is a rip-off. Why can't they ration the water instead?" she asked.

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