Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Reforming Water Distribution in Metro Manila

Posted by butalidnl on 14 October 2010

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This blog is my contribution to Blog Action Day, when people throughout the world will be blogging about: Water.


It’s a recurring problem in Metro Manila: lack of water.  People complain about high water bills, and of water service interruptions.  But at the same time,  many people use water “as if it was water”, i.e. in quite a wasteful manner.  I believe that the price of water in Manila could be restructured in such a way as both to conserve water and to distribute it more equally among the people.

Change price structure for water
I think the structure for water charges should be changed. The first change will be to separate a per-connection charge from the charge for water use. Then, the price for water use for amounts less than 20 cubic meters a month should be lessened, while the price for use above 20 cubic meters raised. 20 cubic meters (or 20,000 liters) seems to be a fairer cut-off amount (as opposed to the present cut-off amount of 10 cubic meters), since the average consumption of water is about 3500 liters (or 3.5 cubic meters)/person/month; making a household with 5 members consume less than 20 cubic meters/month.

The present price structure in Manila is to have a lump sum for the first 10 cubic meters, and then a steadily increasing charge after that. For example, Manila Water (in the Eastern Zone) charges Php 69.16 for the first 10 cubic meters, and then Php 8.44 per cubic meter for the next 10 cubic meters, and then Php 16 per cubic meter for the next 20 cubic meters, etc.

I would propose something like Php 40 as connection fee, then Php 5 per cubic meter for the first 20 cubic meters, and then Php 18 per cubic meter for the next 20 cubic meters, etc…

This way,  there will be a price incentive to have a separate connection per household; since the price of having two households connected to a single water meter will be significantly higher than that of having two water meters.

If more households have water meters, and get water bills, then they will also tend to be more conscious of their water use.  So, instead of having a single water connection for a compound of houses; there would be one connection per house.

All-in bills tend to promote wastage of water. So, for boarding houses, the water bill should be charged separately from the rental fee. If the boarders use too much water, they should pay more, and this will surely result in them being more thrifty in using water.

Check meters once in two months
Water meters are read once a month, and this is the basis for the monthly water bill. Now, if meters are read once every two months; the expenses for doing so would decrease by 50%.  I don’t mean that the bills be made for two month periods. Let the bill be for a month’s use, but base it on a two monthly reading – and simply divide the reading by two, for the bill for the next two months.  Doing so will not only reduce the cost of taking the readings, but also even out some peaks in water use, and make it more affordable.

With this change, the water companies’ cost per connection will go down, and make it possible for them to implement the lowering of the price for poorer households, who use less water.  At the same time, we could encourage the water companies to establish water supply lines to everybody.

Community Charge for “Leakages”
Instead of the current practice of dividing the cost of “leakages” (actual leakages, plus illegal connections) among all the customers; the water companies should charge specific neighborhoods for their leakages. Thus, a neighborhood would have a water meter measuring the whole community’s water use. Then, there would be meters in specific households. The difference between the total readings per household and the overall community meter would be the “community leakage”. This would either be illegal connections, or actual leaking water from pipes. The cost of these leakages should then be charged to all the water users in the community.

The rationale for this approach is community responsibility. If their individual bills are affected by leakages elsewhere in their community, then people will report leaking pipes or illegal connections. And there will be stronger community pressure against illegal connections.

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