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Tackling revenue loss high on agenda of Caribbean water conference

Last Updated on Friday, 21 July 2023, 20:25 by Denis Chabrol

Left to Right: Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal; Minister of Local Government Anand Persaud; Chairman of Guyana Water Incorporated Ramesh Dookhoo and CWWA President Maron Daniels.

The Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association’s (CWWA) conference will later this year  focus on, among other issues, the loss of earnings through leakage, unmetered supplies and theft, association President Marlon Daniels said Friday.

“When it comes to Non-Revenue Water, it is really One Caribbean because the challenges that we have in Guyana are existing across the entire Caribbean region,” President of the CWWA, Lt. Col. Marlon Daniels told a media briefing. He said the last CWWA conference the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for a regional approach through grant financing to combat Non-Revenue Water (NRW).

Minister of Water and Housing, Collin Croal hoped that the conference to be held from October 23 to 27, 2023 in Guyana under the theme “Accelerating Change in Water, Wastewater and Solid Waste Sectors” would craft a regional strategy to tackle NRW. “It is my hope that we can together formulate a regional strategic approach towards funding non-revenue water reduction,” he said.

Mr Daniels, who is also GWI’s Executive Director of Projects, hoped that Mr Croal would “become the champion” of that technical agreement to reduce NRW across the Caribbean. “This initiative because it is joint by IDB and CDB, it will really see the entire Anglophone Caribbean being able to benefit from this programme,” he said.

In Guyana, government was eager to reduce revenue losses in Guyana’s 10 regions “to ensure that the investments in this sector becomes prudent.” Chairman of GWI Ramesh Dookhoo said NRW is a “plague” facing water utility companies globally and there is a “constant battle to get that number down. “GWI is committed to ensure that NRW drop significantly to give effect to the investments that the government of Guyana has made in improving our efficiencies and treated water coverage,” he said. Officials said the company has invested US$200 million in the construction of a new water treatment plant from 2022 to 2025 aimed at increasing treated water supply from 52 percent to 90 percent under the next three years to Regions Two to Six and Bartica in Region Seven. The Minister of Water and Housing said there would be 13 new treatment plants, 13 others to be rehabilitated and expanded, new wells to be drilled along the coast and 40 wells in hinterland communities.

Mr Croal and Mr Dookhoo said they were relying on engaging with consumers who owe GWI in addition to the technological solution of automatic telephone notifications, email and WhatsApp. “Our technological advancement is going to solve a lot of the problems that we now are aware of, that GWI is suffering from. We have an enhanced ICT department that has added new energy to the solutions as we go forward,” he said. At the same time, he said GWI was not ready to implement the “hugely complex” remote automatic disconnection of water supply to customers that fail to pay their bills promptly. “We have to cross some hurdles before we get to that stage,” he said.

Executive Director of Design of Infrastructure & Water Resources, Aubrey Roberts said there are about 177,000 water customers but only about 90,000 are metered, resulting in the remainder paying for only 10 meters cube monthly. He said NRW is currently estimated at 60 percent but by the end of the current water treatment programme that is expected to reduce to 45 percent by 2025 and over the next 18 years it would be below 40 percent. “It requires massive education, it requires a lot of infrastructure and it also requires all of our customers need to understand that water needs to be conserved,” he said.

GWI officials said they plan to install about 20,000 meters this year.

Meanwhile, Mr Dookhoo encouraged engineers and members of the public to submit abstracts of papers and research that they intend to present at the conference.

The conference will focus on climate resilience for the Caribbean, integration and technology for the water sector, integrated water resources management. Organisers are planning for more than 500 delegates from the Caribbean, Latin America, North America and Europe. More than 100 booths are expected to display the latest products in water and water supply management.

CWWAC was established in 1991 and in 2018 its rules were amended to include members from the Dutch and French Caribbean.

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July 2023