Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 November 2020:
Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of rainfall in Africa yet over two-thirds of rhe population are struggling to access safe, clean drinikng water, especially in the dry season.
In the capital – Freetown, many rely on water being sold in jerry cans through a bowser service at a very high cost, whilst those households that are connected to the Gumma Valley Water grid directly, are paying very little.
The Residential Tariff – price of water, approved by Regulators for the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC) is 2,500 Leones per cubic meter, and the Bowser Service tariff is 400,000.00 Leones – 40 Leones per litre for residential customers and 500,000.00 Leones – 50 Leones per litre for commercial customers.
GVWC on the other hand, sells water to operators in bulk at a subsidized rate of 150,000.00 Leones per 10,000 litres which is equivalent to about 15 Leones per litre. The operators in turn sell the GVWC water to customers at 25 Leones per litre.
Some operators pay a flat fee of 250,000.00 Leones a month to GVWC for extracting water from boreholes and they in turn sell to consumers at a tariff of 500.00 Leones for 60 litres – which is 12 Leones 50 Cents per litre.
There is a category of operators who are taking part in a pilot scheme in which water is being delivered to large tanks that will be metered in specific locations. The proposed tariff for water sold in this way to customers will be 1000.00 Leone per 60 litres, or 16 Leones 70 Cents per litre.
It is clear that the entry of water operators in the water supply market without the regulatory and technical input of the Regulators, has made water tariffs – the price of drinking and cooking water – significantly higher for the very poor whose homes are not connected to the GVWC pipes, than those residential customers that are connected to the system.
Water4ever – a private water company that has been operating in the Waterloo community for five years and has been selling water by jerry can for 250 Leones per Jerry can, says it is now forced to sell at a higher price because of its contractual agreement with GVWC, which makes drinking water unaffordable for the those living in the poorer communities of Freetown.
What this means is that residential customers are paying 2 Leones 50 cents per litre for water delivered directly to their homes, whilst the poor who buy their water at the water kiosks are paying a whopping 16 Leones per litre to survive.
Perhaps there could be light at the end of the tunnel for the poorer communities, as the Water Regulators are now calling on all water operators to apply for “tariff approval” to the Commission, who says it will conduct a thorough “cost of service review” to ensure fairness and equity in the sale of what many consider to be God’s given natural resource – water.