Stemming water wastage Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
September 4, 2003

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CONSUMERS have been grumbling a lot these past days at what they say is a "water crisis," lamenting the rationing of drinking water by Guyana Water Incorporated in a land of many waters.

Guyana is indeed a land of many waters. Its landscape is endowed with hundreds of rivers, creeks and streams, some areas - in the hinterland, for instance - compelling marine transport as the only means of travel.

But short of blaming the state for not giving "front burner" priority to the high-tech purification of some of our freshwater resources, as against pumping up scarce groundwater from earth-deep aqueducts, any shortage of water that we're now experiencing is pretty much a problem of our own doing.

Studies reveal that we waste a third of the water pumped into our taps, with most of the 30,000 consumers in Georgetown alone wasting about $20 million worth of water each month.

That's an astounding figure. But there's more.

According to international benchmark standards, each householder should be consuming an average of 130 liters of water per day. In Guyana, however, the consumption rate is 700 liters per person per day - 51/4 times more!

The problem isn't peculiar to Guyana, of course.

In Islamabad, State of Consumer Rights Report 2001 discovered that consumers in the Pakistani capital wasted about 10 to 12 million gallons of water every day.

Another survey, by students of a local university, found that while the daily requirement of water in Islamabad is 100 million gallons per day, only half of that requirement is being supplied. Still, Pakistanis were wasting about 14 percent of the supply figure.

The situation is probably the same in many other places. Yet, as GWI officials told reporters yesterday, consumers in Guyana account for one of the highest rates of per capita wastage anywhere in the world.

Guyanese generally waste water about a third of the water GWI supplies each day - despite it is being provided much below demand.

Hence, the wastage-inspection campaign launched by the corporation on Monday to stem the wastage!

The aim is to check and take appropriate actions against persons indulged in willful misuse or negligent wastage of water through means such as cleaning or washing of driveways, cars and overflowing water taps.

Nobody likes to undergo restrictions of any kind.

In this case, facing natural water scarcity is particularly agonizing for Georgetowners, who rely on supplies from GWI for virtually everything having to do with water.

But if ever restraints are necessary to prevent a crisis of unsustainable consumption from developing, we see the rationing of water - or simply the reduction of supply - as a necessary step to cut production costs, improve service efficiency and, hopefully, address the demand-supply gap.

One argument that is brewing is that GWI is indulging in inequitable water rationing because sectors with affluent and middle- and/or high-income residents who should be getting more water than underprivileged sectors are suffering from the same amount of supply reduction.

The response we've gotten from GWI is that the rationing pattern isn't discriminatory.

Our sense of the supply reduction scenario is that an across-the-board stemming of water wastage and the honoring of their cost-recovery commitments by consumers will result GWI being in a viable position to provide an adequate, reliable and sustained supply of drinking water to every household.