The Sunday Mail
For some time now, residents associations have been lobbying against local authorities’ plans to roll out prepaid water meters, arguing that water is a fundamental human right.
While water is indeed a human right, we must do the right thing and pay for it because there are expenses involved in getting the precious liquid into our homes.
So much work is done before it is delivered to the consumer.
The world over, residents routinely and religiously pay their bills.
There is no free water.
In fact, the idea of water metering is not new.
This way, the responsibility over water consumption becomes individualised; thereby, releasing pressure on councils with regards to water purification and the maintenance of water reticulation infrastructure.
Prepaid water meters will allow councils to provide potable water most efficiently.
In addition to attracting investment in water reticulation, the system will also reduce wastage; for example, through watering the garden or unauthorised car washes.
Most cash-strapped councils have been burdening Government, which is already overwhelmed by other competing responsibilities.
When residents pay for water in advance, their taps will never run dry because the need for potable water will push them to pay for it; thereby, making it easier for local authorities to deliver.
Stakeholders should come up with solutions to water shortages as soon as yesterday.
The situation on the ground is unbearable.
Residents, who pay their bills on time are complaining that they are not getting any water.
They are being put in the same boat with those who do not pay their bills, and this is very unfair.
This anomaly can be addressed through prepaid meters.
Local authorities are agreed that the proposed metering system has the potential to improve revenue collection.
Chitungwiza Council public relations officer, Mr Lovemore Meya recently indicated that there is need for huge capital outlays for the envisaged prepaid infrastructure.
But, some residents blame councils for corruption and mismanagement of funds.
They also believe that prepaid water meters can engender demand-side management similar to the way Zesa’s prepaid meters have forced consumers to use power sparingly.
Again, the process of rolling out the envisaged system should be carefully managed as installing them in economically disadvantaged areas will cut the vulnerable from safe water sources and force them to rely on unprotected wells, water theft and illegal connections.
Poor families may also be forced to reduce water consumption as they have to contend with obligations such as food, medicine, school fees and other essential goods and services.
This will probably expose the most vulnerable people to diseases.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for drinking water highlights that an adult requires approximately two litres per day.
Increased incidences of water-borne diseases, which are often caused by limited access to the resource, put unnecessary strain on the health sector.
Water shortages have the potential to cause conflict and disharmony.
Whilst communities used to share water and help each other during times of crises, will the same camaraderie continue when the prepaid water system is eventually introduced?
So, the prepaid meter system needs a holistic approach that provides a solution for everyone.
However, the system has been used successfully in developed countries.
In Palestine, prepaid water charges were agreed by all stakeholders and both the rich and the poor can afford to pay for the resource.
Prepaid meters are a developmental issue that needs to be seriously considered, especially at this moment, when the nation is facing water shortages.
Water is very crucial and there is no alternative for it.
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