Shocking water bills no mistake

06 March 2019 | Local News

The City of Windhoek says no mistake was made with this month's huge water bills, which have sparked an outcry from residents.

In a brief response to Namibian Sun this week, City spokesperson Harold Akwenye said the water bills, which some customers say are double their usual monthly bills, were not a mistake.

“No error at all, it was due to special drought water tariffs,” he said. A resident last week claimed on a social media page that her account this month amounted to more than N$117 000, compared to an average of N$7 700.

Another claimed that instead of the usual N$2 500 for water usage, they were billed more than N$11 700.

A third consumer claimed that their bill was N$18 000 this month, compared to the usual average of around N$5 000.

Akwenye explained that the bills were based on the drought step-tariffs implemented by the City, and more than likely also showed outstanding amounts due, as no meter readings were done during the December holiday period.

The City announced drought emergency measures in August last year. Residents were instructed to reduce their water use by 10% and step-tariffs were imposed to penalise excessive use. The latest issue of the municipality's newsletter, Aloe, explains the savings measures in detail. The newsletter states that step-tariffs have been imposed to “maintain a fair and sustainable water supply service to all citizens and to penalise high/excessive water consumers who fail in their duty to manage their water consumption.”

Akwenye said a more detailed communication was being drafted and would be released later this week.

Last week, Namibian Sun's sister publication Republikein reported that residential consumers who used more than 1 000 litres per day were now charged N$141 per cubic metre, compared to the usual tariff of N$61 per cubic metre.

A source, who preferred not to be named, claimed in an interview with Republikein that the municipality's financial department had been instructed to implement the drought tariffs in August last year, but a technical hiccup prevented that.

Only businesses were charged according to the Category-C water saving rates.

It was further claimed that the high water bills were the result of backdating the penalty tariffs to January this year.

It could have been much worse: the penalties could have been backdated to August when the new tariffs were announced.

Furthermore, some consumers were only charged for their December water usage after readings were taken in January, the a source claimed.

The implementation of step-tariffs during this time of water scarcity is crucial, the municipality says, as it is expected that an official water crisis could be declared this year.

JANA-MARI SMITH / ELVIRA HATTINGH

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