New managers working on improving water quality
- Infrastructure was poorly maintained
By Nigel Williams
February 13, 2003
Improving the quality and supply of water while getting customers to pay their bills are the immediate aims of the new management at Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI).
UK-based Severn Trent Water International has just taken over GWI under a management contract funded by the British Government through the Department for International Development (DFID). The contract is worth 3.2M Pounds Sterling over five years along with an incentive fee of $284,922 Pounds Sterling.
New Operations Manager Andrew Barber told Stabroek News in an interview that he would be focussing mainly on the delivery of high quality water to all citizens, improving water pressure where needed and maintaining the continuity of water supply. But he cautioned that it would be very costly to achieve such benchmarks and if customers did not pay up their bills it would be impossible.
He pointed out that, while GWI was keen on improving these three areas they still had to supply water at an affordable cost. “So... there is no good in bringing in very expensive technology which would be very costly to maintain or technology which will last for five years and then there is no capital money to replace it. We have to think hard about sustainable, simple technologies that will bring about an improvement in those areas and still maintain a supply that is affordable to as many people as we can.”
Asked how the new management will go about improving the water quality, Barber said, “we will first introduce a flushing campaign, whereby the water will be washed through the mains to get rid of some of the iron.” GWI will also look at the possibility of setting up an iron removal testing facility at the Shelter Belt location. He said GWI would seek to reconfigure the system to improve pressure. Pumps will be altered depending on how they are situated and whether they help with the continuity of supply.
Some areas in the country only receive eight hours of water supply per day. Barber said that GWI would be more than willing to supply everyone with a 24-hour water service, but the cost of electricity was exorbitant and would definitely impact greatly if that step should be taken.
He added that this year the company will secure US$26M for its capital programme provided by the donor agency. This would go to improving the existing system and also extending it to new areas.
Barber said: “here in Guyana you’ve got a reasonable water infrastructure but it’s been poorly maintained, and there hasn’t been a proper maintenance programme in place, so I think we have a whole lot of work to do to bring it up to an acceptable standard.” He also observed that there were a lot of good engineers. “I am very happy for that because after our five years we have to ensure that we adequately train local personnel to run the company.”
A team of technical experts will also complement the new management and will provide relevant training to local managers.
He disclosed that the company expended some $1.2B in electricity charges last year and will first try to reduce its consumption. “But of course all of these things are in conflict with some of the other things we want to do, if you want to give people water for 24 hours a day it means then that you have to pump a lot longer and if you do that the electricity cost will rise...We need to reduce electricity costs by operating more effectively, making sure that the pumps are in the right setting, all of the electrical equipment is being run efficiently and ensuring that the Guyana Power and Light Inc bills are accurate.”
Barber said a lot of work needed to be done on the consumer database since several customers have complained about incorrect billing and others had received bills for other persons.
Further, GWI’s collection rate is nowhere near to what is expected and as such that area would have to be given special attention. “So if we can increase our revenue collection and decrease our electricity bills, we will start operating in the black and not in the red as we are at the moment. The long-term aim over the couple of years ahead is to reduce the level of government subsidies and our aim is to make GWI a commercially viable company that can stand on its own feet and not have to rely on external support.”
The UK-based, Birming-ham water company currently supplies water to the Midlands area of England and has some eight million customers. The international division provides water and sanitation services and has contracts across Europe, Russia and Africa with 15 billion customers worldwide.