Harare to install pre-paid water meters
By Charlotte Musarurwa
The Harare City Council will embark on a pilot project to install pre-paid water meters in the Avenues area as it seeks to give consumers the power to manage their own consumption.
Most consumers are set to welcome this initiative as they have already embraced the pre-paid electricity meters.
Council has already secured funds for the pilot project, from the US$144 million which it secured from the China Export and Import Bank which was meant for rehabilitation of the water works and sewage treatment plants.
Council intends to install 1 000 pre-paid water meters in the Avenues which will expand to other areas, depending on the success of the pilot project. The initiative is meant to improve water bills payment to enable council to provide service delivery as most residents have developed the culture of not settling their bills.
Harare Water director Eng Christopher Zvobgo confirmed the development, saying it was an initiative by council aimed at encouraging residents to pay their bills.
“We want to introduce pre-paid water meters but we are set to roll out a pilot project soon. If we install pre-paid meters, then consumers can manage their own consumption, doing away with the billing system.The pilot project is so that we gauge customer reaction,” said Eng Zvobgo.
Eng Zvobgo said the installation of the pre-paid meters will help residents, as they will not be billed for what they would not have consumed. He said the current billing system leaves room for wastage as some consumers use hosepipes or leave faulty taps dripping.
But with pre-paid meters, consumers will not afford to be wasteful as they will automatically be disconnected if they use up their credit. He said other countries like South Africa and Botswana have used the pre-paid meters successfully and as a result they have no challenges pertaining to water revenue.
Harare Town Clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi confirmed the pilot project, saying the project will be in place before the year ends. Though he acknowledged that they will use part of the US$144 million facility from China, he refused to say how much they were going to use.
The project is expected to be extended to other parts of the city, and the city fathers will inform residents more about the project after the Chinese engineers, who are going to roll out the programme, arrive in the country this weekend.
Harare Residents’ Trust Director Precious Shumba said the move on pre-paid meters is not welcome as there is need to consult residents first. He added that water is a constitutional right to everyone. “That decision of pre-paid water meters is a manipulation of water. Water is a constitutional right to every citizen and resident.
“The city cannot introduce a system that puts a cost to water. “A number of residents are not gainfully employed and putting prepaid meters puts unnecessary pressure on residents who are struggling to make ends meet. “They cannot do anything without engaging the views of the residents,” said Mr Shumba.
Pre-paid water meters are still widely used in South Africa, as well as in countries such as Brazil, the United States, the Philippines, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Brazil, Nigeria and Curacao.