d — Even as the State-run National Water Commission (NWC) becomes increasingly environmentally friendly by utilising more renewable energy as a cost-saving measure, the Government has made it clear that the water entity does not intend to say goodbye to the nationwide electricity grid.
“Like everyone that has had challenges with their household electricity bills, NWC, over the past couple of months, has had significant challenges with increasing energy rates. Now I will put on the table that NWC cannot, should not, and is not contemplating coming off of the JPS [Jamaica Public Service] grids,” said minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Matthew Samuda.
The NWC has consistently said payments to the JPS make up the bulk of its expenses.
“We have 700-plus sites and it just would be a reckless decision. There is no engineering basis to come off of the grid. However, there is an engineering basis and climate change support for NWC to significantly invest in the engagement of renewables at its offices, at its pump houses to reduce the cost that we are paying,” the minister added.
Samuda noted that as a response to complaints he has been receiving from politicians, residents, and business people since he took office, the Government is moving to speed up investment in transforming the pumping, electricity, and energy use within the NWC.
“If I have to pay increased energy rates, it reduces my ability to move quickly to implement new water systems. So this is an economic decision as much as it is a climate and environmental decision,” he said.
Another issue faced by the company is non-revenue water (NRW) — unaccounted for supply, either through theft or leaking distribution pipelines — which varies, depending on the parish, from just under 40 per cent to 70 per cent.
“There is no business on Earth that can afford pilferage or leakage of 38 per cent, let alone 70 per cent,” stated the minister.
Samuda noted that an NRW project was implemented in Kingston and St Andrew as well as Portmore which is aimed at addressing the issue. He said the results are “phenomenal” and efforts are being made to have this replicated across the country.
“The Government has seen the benefit of those investments and that has helped us fight the drought that we are facing in that space. We are looking very carefully at the financing options that will allow for a national non-revenue water project to commence in the next 12 months. This will significantly cut leakage and theft,” he revealed.
Samuda was addressing a commissioning ceremony for a $475-million Whitehall water pumping station in Negril on Thursday. Some 9,000 people are expected to benefit.
He encouraged customers to pay their bills on time and also encouraged the public to report incidents of theft.
“It costs the water commission billions of dollars every single year. It is one of the reasons we have not connected hundreds more communities that are in need of potable water. So I am pleading and imploring the citizens of Negril to report the theft of water to us. We absolutely need your support,” Samuda pleaded.
“The reality is, the cost of providing water is significantly more in many cases than what we receive in fees. People have to pay their water bills if we are to be reliable. The truth is, we do have challenges in that area and now we have been making gains, but we have a long way to go,” the minister added.