Water operators should address non-revenue water and other wastages

Price hike: A pedestrian passing by a water meter in Ampang after Span announced water tariff rates will be increased to 22 sen per cubic metre from Feb 1 for domestic users. — AZMAN GHANI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: A typical household of four persons that consume no more than 20 cubic metres of water per month will see their monthly water bills increasing by RM1.60 to RM8 under the new water tariff, says the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca).

This works out to anything from five to 27 sen per day, it said.

ALSO READ: Water tariffs to go up across the peninsula

Fomca chief executive officer Saravanan Thambirajah said 20 cubic metres per month will be enough for a household of three to four people with ‘normal’ (or non-business related) consumption which includes drinking, cooking, bathing and washing.

“This excludes ‘abnormal’ consumption like gardening, washing cars and watering the lawn,” he said yesterday.

Saravanan, who is also the president of the Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia, said there should be a fixed water tariff for all types of domestic users to ensure fairness.

“It’s not fair for those who stay in high rises (who are billed according to the bulk meter system instead of individual meters) to pay commercial rates for water,” he said.

According to the National Water Services Commission (Span), currently, all states in Malaysia charge a slightly different rate, with three usage bands for domestic users with individual meters for landed properties, with their minimum charges ranging from RM2.50 to RM7 a month.For those living in apartments, quarters or flats, their water usage is captured on bulk meters, with minimum charges ranging from RM3 to RM173.

Since any tariff increase would have an impact on all people, Saravanan said the government should assist the underprivileged, including certain M40 groups where needed.

While consumers should understand that the government has postponed the increase for over two decades, he said the tariff increase would be justified if water operators addressed existing issues and improved their services.“There were many complaints and enquiries about water disruptions, murky water supply, frequent unscheduled water cuts and low pressure.

“Another important issue is non-revenue water (NRW), which is still high among water operators.“Since the government wants consumers to save water, the same should be applicable to all water operators to further reduce their NRW,” said Saravanan, who claimed that more water wastage is seen in commercial sectors such as landscaping, car washes and industries.

“Some bigger industries have evolved and are practising rainwater harvesting and water recycling. All stakeholders must realise that climate change is affecting water resources and action must be taken before it is too late,” he added.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia president S. Piarapakaran said the 22 sen increase per cubic metre was an average value.

He said the domestic tariff has three bands, with every state having different rates and state operators are expected to announce their actual tariff increases for each band in the coming days.

While the current revision is not a steep increase, Piarapakaran pointed out that it did not use the “cost benchmarking mechanism” that was agreed upon.

“The current tariff setting uses a cost-plus mechanism, where the state water operators submit a projected cost and Span would approve it by adding a single-digit regulated profit.

“Tariff bands are how water companies collect revenue to cover water service expenses and regulated profits.

“Meanwhile, benchmarking is to ensure that every cost that is passed on to the consumer is an efficient cost.

“Span’s failure to implement benchmarking has its own risks, where we will lose the ability to identify inefficient costs,” he said.

Piarapakaran, who is also the CEO of the Centre for Water and Energy Sustainability, argued that the costs of inefficiency would be “normalised” in the tariff if these costs are not captured in the continuous iteration process of tariff setting.

That said, he added that consumers will adjust their water consumption behaviour based on the affordability of the service.

“The more important issue is whether consumers are aware that there are equipment and behaviours that may cause them to waste water directly and indirectly,” he said.

Consumers’ Association of Penang president Mohideen Abdul Kader said it is important that the B40 and M40 groups continue to receive subsidies, although they have to pay a little bit more.“The increase is reasonable in view of the escalating costs of production and supply of potable water,” he said, adding that there is a great need to conserve water amid climate change.

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Utilities , Water Tariffs , SPAN , water


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