US$300,000 hinterland water project in pipeline
GWI mulls increased tariffs By Nigel Williams Stabroek News
March 6, 2003

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A British funded capital programme valued at US$300,000 will see a number of hinterland communities receiving water supply in the next five years, but higher tariffs are also likely.

Peter Styles, corporate planning director of the Guyana Water Inc. (GWI) told Stabroek News on Tuesday that the provision of water to the hinterland communities is one of the many benchmarks the new management contractors of Severn Trent Water International would have to meet within the five years of the contract. Styles said the water company has an over- all capital programme of US$85M for the five years with US$17M being spent in 2003.

Several engineers and executives are carrying out familiarisation studies in the various communities to assess the conditions and ground work for the project. Hinter-land Manager, Peter Waldron warned that while improvements were necessary there was a cost attached and the management of GWI would have to consult with the stakeholders before any implementation.

He added that, GWI would help form village water- committees to consult with the residents and report back to the company.

Waldron said GWI would look at all possible water sources. He said it would be less expensive to use the water from the Essequibo River rather than digging wells. “You see if we go in the direction of wells and pumps, we would have to think about electricity for running the pumps and if we go in the direction of surface water that is the river, then there are a lot of mechanisms we have to get right.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference held at the Hotel Tower on Tuesday to introduce the directors of Severn Trent, the UK company now managing GWI for the next five years, Managing Director, Dereck Hodson told reporters that Severn’s contract was performance-based, which meant that they had little time to waste in improving services.

Both Andrew Barber, Operations Director and Hodson observed that the water infrastructure currently in place had been poorly maintained over the years.

Hodson said GWI expected to reduce non-revenue water significantly, increase the company’s revenue collection efficiency, extend service coverage, improve the levels of supply and quality and increase meter coverage. These benchmarks, he said, were very crucial if GWI was to become a more viable commercially-driven agency.

Hodson said that GWI was operating at a loss mainly due to the combination of the high cost for electricity and delinquent customers who have not been paying their bills. “The Guyana Power and Light has had a dramatic effect on us and we have to find some means of resolving the issue.”

Asked whether there would be an increase in water tariffs, Hodson told the media that, “we have looked at the possibility considering our expenditures, but we don’t have a definitive position as yet.”

Peter Styles said the current database used to bill customers was faulty, resulting in customers from time to time having to make queries about their bills. He said that since Severn Trent took over management of the water company they have been trying to revamp the system. “It will take some time before we have everything in order, but we have certainly taken note of the data base system.”

Speaking about some of the current challenges facing the company, Hodson told the media that, GWI had inherited a huge debt from its predecessors, the Georgetown Sewer-age and Water Commissioners and the Guyana Water Authority. He said working capital was limited and that customer service was still poor. “These are areas where we have to look into immediately in order to bring about the sort of changes needed in the system.”

To date the company has secured funding of 126,000 pounds sterling from the British Department for International Development and US$130,000 from the World Bank’s International Development Association.

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