NWC Pledges More Efficient and Reliable Service


The National Water Commission (NWC) says although the recent 26.36 per cent tariff increase approved by the Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) falls short of expectation, it will help the NWC meet its target of providing a more efficient and reliable service while becoming a viable entity.
Charles Buchanan, Public Relations Manager of the NWC, in addressing a recent JIS Think Tank, indicated that because of the shortfall however, the NWC might not be able to undertake some critical projects.
The last tariff adjustment was granted to the utility company in February 1999.
“From early last year the National Water Commission had gotten the results from a privately commissioned survey and cost of service study, which indicated there would need to be at most, an 80 per cent increase in the water rates if we were to be able to fully recover all the costs related to providing Jamaica with water and sewage services,” revealed Mr. Buchanan.
However, the NWC recognising the inability of many of its customers to afford such a hefty increase, applied to the Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) for a 42 per cent tariff adjustment.
“We also sought to find ways in which we would be in a position to gradually see that the cost elements within the Water Commission would be reduced. We would seek to put a tremendous emphasis on efficiency gains, use of new technology, use of more modern equipment and other means by which we felt we could contain our cost and deliver a quality service,” Mr. Buchanan outlined to JIS News.
The new tariff adjustment granted by the OUR, will allow the Commission to undertake a number of projects this year but some may have to be shelved.”Because of the level of increase that has been granted, well below what was requested by the Commission, a number of the projects which we had proposed and would sincerely want to undertake in the shortest possible time, might not be done immediately,” he explained.
With a lower level of increase than what was requested, the NWC is now challenged to approach international funding agencies to negotiate funding or grants for some of its projects. But that also poses a problem, said Mr. Buchanan who explained that funding agencies were reluctant to provide loans to an entity that was not generating the necessary revenue to support its operations.
Some of the projects the NWC will undertake this year include the Port Antonio Water Supply Sewage and Drainage Project, the Great River/Lucea Water Supply Project, the Kingston Metropolitan Area Water Supply and Rehabilitation Project, the Falmouth/Duncans Water Supply Project and the Kingston Metropolitan Area Water and Sewage Project.
Kingston Metropolitan Water Supply and Rehabilitation Project
The KMA Water Supply and Rehabilitation Project represents the single largest rehabilitation project to be undertaken in Jamaica. It is expected to cost some US$84 million and will extend into 2006.
The project, which is being funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and the Government of Jamaica in the amounts of approximately US$60 million and US$20 million respectively, is expected to result in significant reduction of unaccounted for water (UFW) and also to provide adequate water supply to the Kingston Metropolitan Area, from Southeast St. Catherine, including Greater Spanish Town and Portmore into Kingston.
“This project is already underway and is largely aimed at rehabilitating the water supply sources, transmission systems, pumping equipment and other parts of the distribution network…We will get from that project, at least some 8.5 million gallons (38.25 million litres) more water to serve the Kingston Metropolitan Area. We also expect that we would see significant reductions in the frequency of leaks,” he continued.
Leaks pose a serious problem for the NWC, largely because of the outdated pipeline infrastructure. On average, pipes are expected to last for 25-30 years, depending on the type of pipe and environment in which it is placed. However, as Mr. Buchanan explained, many of the pipeline networks across Jamaica were between 50 and 70 years old.
“There is a tremendous need for us to replace and rehabilitate much of the infrastructure or it will result in the inefficiencies and despite our best efforts to run down every leak and to fix every one, with the same infrastructure, it is effectively a futile effort. It is like putting band aid on a fracture,” he told JIS News.
Port Antonio Water Supply, Sewage and Drainage Project
During 2004, the NWC expects to start construction on the Port Antonio Water Supply, Sewage and Drainage Project. An Advisory Monitoring Committee including persons from Port Antonio is already in place.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the main funding agency for this project, which will result in the reduction in UFW; the provision of a reliable water supply to Port Antonio and its environs and sewage treatment facilities for Port Antonio and surrounding areas, Mr. Buchanan outlined.
Upgrading of the drainage for the town will also form part of the project. The overall cost of the major capital works will be Euro $39 million.
Great River/Lucea Water Supply Project
This project began in 2003 and should be completed by the last quarter of 2004.
The Great River/Lucea Water Supply Project envisions the provision of a new large diameter connection between the New Great River Treatment Plant on the St. James/Hanover border and Lucea.
“That Great River to Lucea project essentially is to increase the treatment capacity of the Great River treatment plant, which is on the St. James side of the Hanover/St. James border. We will increase the capacity of that treatment plant from 10 million gallons (45 million litres) of water per day to 15 million gallons (67.5 million litres) capacity. We will also be running a brand new 500 mm diameter transmitter pipeline, which will enable us to take water from there all the way into Lucea and to have that interconnected with our system that comes from Logwood, serving Negril and Lucea,” he said.
Both the pipeline component and the construction of the new plant were ahead of schedule, Mr. Buchanan revealed, noting that by September 2004, citizens would start to enjoy the benefits of that project.
Falmouth/Duncans Water Supply Project
This project is related to the Great River/Lucea Water Supply Project and will see the NWC developing more water supply treatment capacity at Martha Brae in Falmouth and having a water supply system that goes to Duncans.
In the past, small water supply sources were expected to serve a small number of communities, but the NWC is looking at, over the long-term, developing a more integrated system so that not only would there be larger sources less susceptible to the effects of drought and dry spells, but also there will be more possibilities for remote monitoring of these sources through available technology.
Kingston Metropolitan Area Water and Sewage Project This project, in keeping with the sewage portfolio of the NWC, has progressed satisfactorily to date and, as divulged by Mr. Buchanan, was being “considered in detail for the long-term rehabilitation of the Kingston Harbour.”
The projects that the NWC would not be able to undertake immediately are still on the agenda in keeping with its commitment to undertake improvement and efficiency programmes.

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