In my previous post “Detroit, Michigan Water Shut Offs – a Right, a Privilege or an Infrastructure Asset Management Problem?“, I have pointed out the infrastructure management issues arising from the Detroit water shut offs.
In the later part, I have expounded on the issue “So Who Pays?”.
Once it has been agreed that some sort of payment is required, and what that level of payment will be, the question arises – how to manage collection of payment, especially for the poor in society.
I have had an interest in this question for some time, and have made some observations of practice:
- Shutoffs are currently being attempted in Detroit, but this is generating civil disobedience
- At one point in Auckland, NZ restriction of supply was permitted to a minimum sanitary water flow only. This seemed to work at the time at a practical level – outstanding bills were paid, but the political issue was such that the practice was legislated against, and is now illegal
- South Africa uses prepayment token operated water meters – i.e. pay first for the token, insert the token, obtain a metered amount of water with the token.
- South Africa also provides minimum water flows for the ‘indigent’ as a basic right.
- Electrical power companies often also deploy prepay meters
- Singapore a few years back had an issue with non payment in poorer areas and informal settlements, and deployed meter readers with portable payment collection systems – who were assigned areas to work, and personally approached water users, and collected payment at that time. This approach was reported as successful at that time
For Detroit, once the heat of the current debate is finished, the question of how to arrange payment for the water service will remain, and it will be interesting to observe the solution that is developed to meet this issue.
If you have comments or suggestions around this article (from an infrastructure management viewpoint) we would welcome your feedback, and the discussion.
The issue isn’t going away any time soon.