Commercial customers may soon be paying higher water bills as the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) seeks to correct what it considers a longstanding anomaly in its rates in an ongoing economy drive, the Minister for the state-owned utility announced this evening.
As he introduced the Utility (Amendment) Bill in the House of Assembly, Minister of Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams declared: “We have had an anomalous situation where commercial water usage rates were lower than that for domestic water rates, which has caused a number of issues with the BWA.”
Commercial customers are to pay $4.66 per cubic metre if they use below 40 cubic metres a month, as is the case with domestic consumers, but the rate will increase to $7.78 per cubic metre if they use between 40 cubic metres and 12,000 cubic metres per month; for those who use more than 12,000 metres, the rate will revert to $4.66 per cubic metre, he said.
“We are hoping that this rate change will remind people that water has a cost and if the commercial sector is seeking to save money, they will use it more wisely,” Abrahams, the MP for Christ Church East, told the House.
He declared that the Garbage and Sewerage Contribution (GSC) that was tacked on to water bills late last year did not provide much revenue for the BWA, so it had to find other methods to help finance its operations.
“The BWA only retains 25 cents of this levy, and it is specifically for the maintenance of the sewerage network, so we still have to find the money to deliver a safe and efficient supply of water.”
At present, the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act only applies to taxes collected by central Government, which means it does not cover revenues collected by statutory bodies like the BWA, the Minister said.
But as the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) remains the watchdog for BWA rates and service levels, Abrahams stressed there was no plan for the BWA to break away from that regulator.
“The BWA is subject to the Utilities Act, and the exisiting Fair Trading Commission legislation states that a service provider may apply for part of the utility service to be exempted from an aspect of the Act. So the Minister has the discretion to exercise or award an exemption where he is satisfied that the market is competitive.
“However, the BWA is a monopoly so there is no way for us to establish competitiveness, so Minister could not use discretion for water rates to go up.
“When circumstances allow us to apply for a rate hearing we will do it, but we believe this rate will be accepted by the FTC. If people have issues with the BWA they can still speak to the FTC, because it is still under their watch.
“We are merely correcting an anomaly in the existing legislation, and we are hoping that the BWA’s revenues will increase as a result of this.”
Speaking further on the controversial GSC, Abrahams said: “We are looking at a cap for the GSC for commercial enterprises which use a lot of water.
“For example, a hotel can charge back for the water it uses, but for those entities that may not be able to install water saving devices like laundries and farms, we can put the cap in place.”