Cash-strapped Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) lost a third of the water it treated during the 2016-2017 financial year through leaks and non-invoicing, it emerged this week.
The Water Utilities Corporation incurred a loss of over half a billion pula, its latest annual report shows. During the year under review, a total of 100.6 million kilolitres of treated water was pumped into the distribution networks, and only 71.8 million kilolitres was accounted for, while 28.7 million kilolitres was not. From the 72 million kilolitres invoiced to customers, WUC realised revenues of P1.4 billion in the year; meaning that on average, the unaccounted for 28.7 million kilolitres represents P530 million in lost revenue. WUC incurred an operating loss of P96.4 million, down from a loss of P242 million the previous year.
The unaccounted for water was lost through leakages as well as an inefficient billion pula system that results in customers not being invoiced for consumed water. WUC Chief Executive Officer, Mmetla Masire (pictured) said the non-revenue water (NRW), which is water that has been produced and is lost through leaks, theft or metering inaccuracies, remains one of the major issues affecting the corporation.
He also noted that high levels of NRW have a negative financial sustainability on the corporation through lost revenues and increased operational costs. Masire, however, said at 29%, this year’s NRW is lower than the previous year, which stood at 33%.
“From the previous financial year, there has been a two percent reduction in water put into the distribution networks and a four percent increase in water accounted for respectively,” Masire said.
He highlighted that this is indicative of the efficiency of the billing system having improved slightly, mainly due to a data clean-up exercise that updates customer accounts in various management centres. Masire explained that the NRW also contributes considerably to the imbalance in water demand and water supply.
He said recurring drought conditions compound the situation, as many of the areas across the country experience water supply deficit.
Additionally, he stated that various factors have been identified as contributors to high levels of NRW, adding that these are mainly related to pressure management, network efficiency, network maintenance metering, and ineffective meter reading and billing systems. He said the countrywide decline in borehole and dams yields as a result of drought is a major factor that leads to reduced system input volume.
“As of June 2017, the corporation embarked on an exercise to relocate all customer meters from inside to outside yards in the cities of Gaborone and Francistown to improve meter reading efficiency,” Masire said.
Furthermore, he said the government has secured a loan from the World Bank for a ‘Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project,’ the main objective of which is to improve water supply efficiency and reliability countrywide, thus reducing water losses and ultimately non-revenue water.