Government says it has reversed its policy decision that halted disconnection of water supply to defaulting customers as water utility companies are making K900 million loss annually in non-revenue water.
Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Raphael Nakachinda said he is concerned that non-revenue water losses continue to escalate reaching 50 per cent.
Mr Nakachinda has since directed water utility companies to accelerate efforts to put in place measures to stop the losses.
“I further wish to direct water utilities to immediately prioritise the reduction of non-revenue water in their operations as the ministry works with other stakeholders to actualize sustainable and long term solutions to non-revenue water,” said Mr Nakachinda.
He further said government has reversed its policy decision that compelled water utility companies from disconnecting defaulting customers arising from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the national and household economies.
Mr Nakachinda was speaking when he launched the 2020 Urban and Peri-Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Report in Lusaka.
He said water utility companies can now disconnect defaulting customers because they have not been sincere in paying for or reducing the accumulated water bills.
He explained that government had directed water utility companies not to disconnect water from both domestic and commercial customers as a relief due to effects of the COVID-pandemic.
The minister said he was however saddened that customers have not reciprocated to pay for the water bills despite the relief provided by government.
Mr Nakachinda noted that the water sector has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
“Let me take this opportunity to once again assure you that as a ministry, we stand ready to support you to navigate through any viable initiatives to enable you find lasting solutions to challenges facing the utilities,” he said.
Mr Nakachinda commended water utility companies for performing exceptionally by providing necessary water and sanitation services to customers through the development and implementation of the COVID-19 contingency plan amidst the prevailing pandemic.
He assured the water utilities companies of government and cooperating partners support to sustain operations through provision of grants and water treatment chemicals.
He noted that access to clean and safe water is critical in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and other diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid.
Mr Nakachinda said government through his ministry will remain resolute and work towards attainment of national aspirations under the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) and vision 2030 of the global agenda of sustainable development goal of water and sanitation.
He pointed out that government has extended coverage of water and sanitation services to rural areas resulting in the construction and rehabilitation of over 2,000 boreholes and over 100 water schemes across the country.
The minister stated that this has improved access to water across the country to 72 percent from 65 percent in 2014 while access to sanitation stands at 54 percent from 25 percent in 2014.
Mr Nakachinda added that the practice of open defecation has reduced from 16 percent in 2014 to the current 10 percent due to the presence of dignified sanitation facilities to Zambians in both Urban and Peri-Urban areas.
And Mr Nakachinda announced that government will effect a special electricity tariff for water utilities backdated to January to provide relief to water utility companies that have been grappling with the high cost of electricity in their operations.
The minister challenged the Boards of water utility companies to provide effective policy and strategic direction in order to improve performance and enhance service delivery of water and sanitation services.
And NWASCO Board Chairperson, Philip Mubanga said despite the challenges faced in 2020, water utility companies performed well in provision of water and sanitation services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Mubanga disclosed that over 271,000 people were added to the population accessing water while 379,000 were also added to people accessing sanitation services.
He said 21,700 new metres were installed with 21,500 new household connections for water and 10,300 for sewer.
Dr Mubanga appealed to government and stakeholders to adopt the approach of universal metering to promote efficiency and tackle the increasing loss of non-revenue water.
During the launch of the water sector report, best performing utilities and other deserving water utilities as well as journalists were awarded for efforts towards service provision and creating awareness about the water sector respectively.