Harare City Council began rolling out pre-paid water meters early this year.
A public outcry against the move did not stop the City Council from going ahead with their project.
The rollout “pilot project” installed water meters in Bluffhill, Sunningdale, Kambuzuma, Greendale, Avenues, and Avondale.
Unfortunately, I live in one of the areas listed above, so I had my water meter installed and these are my observations as to why I think the new water management system is not in the interest of residents.
I can only speak about the water meter I have installed, I have noticed 3-4 different types of water meter units, so experiences may differ.
Firstly the water meter uses a “wireless remote control”, the outside unit and the home unit connect wirelessly to synchronize data.
This does not work as well as it may sound.
The home remote unit needs to sync with the outside meter unit to give you a reading of your consumption and units left.
To get the two units to sync you have to be at least 10-15 meters close and pointing at the meter.
Also, you have to have the outside unit on to achieve the sync, so, either way, you have to go all the way outside to the meter to check your readings.
Also, the system does not notify the consumer with alerts of low water units like the electricity meter we have become accustomed to.
If you are not vigilant you can run out of water at odd hours.
In the early stages of the roll-out, a lot of residents were going without water for 2-3 days thinking it was a council issue when in fact their “free” water provision had finished.
Council gives you 3 cubic meters of water for free when they install the meter.
When the water finishes, a new challenge arises, payment.
At the moment you can only buy water at City Council offices, so if you do run out, you have between 8:00 am and 16:30 to buy water.
Surely a convenient and modern payment system should have been put in place before implementation.
There are too many platforms: mobile money (EcoCash, TeleCash, GetCash), mobile banking, online banking, and agents are all available .
Lastly, there has been no effort to educate residents.
Very few people know how to operate the equipment or what the terms mean in reality.
A lot of people thought the 3 cubic meters provided on installation was a lot of water.
Continuing with daily routines, watering yards and gardens many residents were surprised to find their allocation spent.
I feel as though the Council is making it too difficult for residents to adopt water meters.
They have to at least address payment issues.
A secure mobile payment system or ability to simply buy water at your local supermarket could make a huge difference.
As it stands, City Council seems to have no real intentions of increasing its revenue or are going about it poorly.