Harare Water last month held a smart water meter stakeholder meeting to seek resident buy-in for a pilot project to install 2,000 pre-paid smart meters at commercial and residential properties.
The smart water meter pilot project is currently at the tender stage with its evaluation set for March next year. So far the pilot project will target customers with a continuous water supply, customers with non-functional meters, industrial and commercial customers, as well as all new housing developments. The complete roll-out of smart water meters is expected to take a cautionary approach over five years and will depend on the success of the pilot project.
According to council, a smart water meter is a battery powered gadget that records water consumption and enables two-way communication between the meter and the central system. While addressing the stakeholder meeting held on 7 October, distribution manager for Harare, Engineer Hosiah Chisango, said that the smart water meters will show customer consumption, communicate with a data management system, report faults, unusual consumption patterns, and collection arrears.
“We want to implement the smart water metering system because of cash flow challenges. There has not been any improvement in revenue collection despite increased water output which shows that residents do not want to pay their water bills,” said Chisango.
Chisango pointed out that the smart water meters will improve water use outreach due to the reduction in unaccounted for water losses and promote the efficient usage of water. The water and distribution manager also said that smart water meters will reduce water theft that is rampant in the city due to a flawed system.
“Smart water meters will lead to increased supply coverage, improved supply management, and increased focus on customers’ specific requirements. We also expect to increase revenue collection by $24 million per year as well as to increase water supply in most suburbs from the current 17 hours to 20 hours per day,” explained Chisango.
Positives outcomes such as greater household control over each individual water budget are also expected from the smart meters as residents can decide how much they want to pay for water and how long it will last. Residents will be able to get water with even a small payment which is better than trying to pay a big bill and most of all, they have the choice to use only the water they can afford to pay for.
“This means that residents will no longer have debts and disconnections as well as bills they don’t trust and cannot pay. You spend less on water because you are more aware and you use less. Residents will be in charge as they can decide when the water stops,” added Chisango.
A World Bank study reveals that Harare is not the first African city to adopt the smart water meter system as it has already been implemented in other cities including Johannesburg, Kampala, Nairobi, Nakuru, Maputo, Lusaka, Windhoek, Mogale City, and Maseru.
Some residents in Harare continue to resist the pre-paid water meter system while others have expressed a willingness to be included. Those resisting argue that water is a basic need which should not be only a preserve of the rich. Others argue that Harare is not yet ready for the system because of the current non-availability of water to all residents.
Next month, Part Two of our focus on pre-paid water meters will look more deeply into Harare residents’ opinions about the smart water meter system. Join in the conversation via firstname.lastname@example.org or call (04)442866.
Image credit: Georg Wiora Dr. Schorsch. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons