BPRA confronts council over high water bills

The Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) has confronted the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) over astronomical water bills charged on residents in the city.

Residents have in the past weeks received inflated water bills ranging from ZWL$19 000 (roughly US $146) to ZWL$100 000 ( roughly US$769).

In a statement last week, BCC town Clerk, Christopher Dube, said residents must brace for high water bills as households were using more water than their daily consumption average.

Dube said residents were using as much as 760litres of water per person per day which was over the 650 litres of daily average allocated per household per day in line with the city’s water rationing schedule.

In a letter to the town clerk, BPRA Coordinator, Emmanuel Ndlovu questioned why residents had to pay such astronomical water bills yet were struggling under the distressed economy.

“This letter serves to raise concerns over the recent exorbitant water bills that residents have received from BCC. Residents have in the past weeks received inflated water bills ranging from ZWL$19 000 to ZWL$100 000. The problem of high water bills was first reported by residents in Mpopoma and spread to other areas,” Ndlovu said in the letter.

Ndlovu gave an example of how one house in Old Magwegwe (address supplied), the household was owing ZWL$ 4 528, 64 and after paying ZWL$ 1 400, they received another bill that stated the house owed ZWL$65 841, 52.

“Another house in Old Magwegwe (address supplied) received a letter stating they owed ZWL$11 000. After paying ZWL$10 000, the resident received a new bill reading minus ZWL9 939, 88,” said the residents’ coordinator.

“In yet another house in Magwegwe (address supplied), the resident paid the amount she was owing and was credited higher than her debt. Residents have also noted that BCC is not conducting physical meter readings and as such the use of estimates may be the cause of exorbitant bills. It is also of concern that the billing system may be faulty and that the introduction of the new water meters was done without a proper close out on the old system.”

Ndlovu said looking at these issues, the city council must investigate and give reasons why residents are credited excessive water charges.

“BPRA thus requests BCC to look into the matter and clarify the source of the figures and tariffs determination as the above mentioned are just a  few examples of how the bills are not logically in sync,” appealed the residents’ coordinator.

He also noted with concern, press reports in which BCC was defending the astronomical water bills, saying they are a true reflection of residents’ consumption levels.

“The claim by the Town Clerk that residents are consuming an average of 760 litres per person per day is also an absurd claim. BPRA has been in the process of monitoring the BCC billing system in the past week and after accompanying some residents to council offices, BPRA noted cases that reflected faulty billing. This matter is of great concern,” Ndlovu said.

BCC maintains the high bills were due to the fact that since June, council has been recording actual metre readings from residences that showed high levels of water abuse from the consumers.

According to the council, high bills will mainly affect suburbs fed by the Tuli Reservoir.

Suburbs that are serviced by Tuli Reservoir include Esigodini, Imbizo Barracks, Fortunes Gate, Selbourne Park, Matsheumhlophe, Parklands, Khumalo, Queens Park, Suburbs, Mahatshula, Woodville, Kingsdale, Lochview, Sunninghill, Marlands, Glencoe, Riverside, Waterford, Manningdale, Willsgrove, Buena Vista and Douglasdale.

However, some households in Northend and Queens Park Suburbs said their water bills were ranging around ZWL$3 000.

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