During the House of Assembly on March 10, Transportation, Works, and Utilities Minister Kye Rymer said the Water and Sewerage Department spend some $22 million to subsidise it’s water operations. (Photo: HOA)

As the Water and Sewerage Department struggles with leaks and other issues, it has been paying about $27 million to its water suppliers each year even though it makes only about $5 million from selling potable water, Transportation, Works and Utilities Minister Kye Rymer said last week in the House of Assembly.

“When calculated, this equates to the [WSD] recouping a mere 14 percent of its operating expenditure when compared to the current losses in excess of 80 percent of revenues,” Mr. Rymer said.

The territory’s water infrastructure has long suffered from frequent leaks and insufficient metering, and in an effort to stem the revenue loss the ministry is currently replacing existing analogue water meters with 5,325 ultrasonic digital meters that can be read remotely, Mr.Rymer said.

“This will lead to a much more efficient and effective water accountability and billing system,” he explained during the March 10 HOA meeting.

The ministry also has made improvements to the water system in Sea Cows Bay, such as repairing waterlines and installing pumps to push water to higher elevation homes, while similar upgrades are slated for areas including Cane Garden Bay and Chalwell.

The restoration of reservoirs at Long Bush, Carrot Bay and Zion Hill is also in progress, Mr. Rymer said.

Water bill problems

He added that the department has “optimised” a “customer service team” that will focus on responding to queries and providing options to remedy problems.

“Over the past few months the ministry and the department have been bombarded with calls from customers who have been experiencing a myriad of water issues pertaining to but not limited to their water bill,” he said. “This and other issues are of real concern to me and my ministry and we are working feverishly to solve them.”

Because of such issues, he said, the department has paused water disconnections until the end of April.

Mr. Rymer urged customers to use this “grace period,” which came into effect on Jan. 15 and expires on April 30, to settle all outstanding bills.

He also asked “for some patience and a bit of understanding,” but told residents “to rest assured your issues will be listened to, noted and addressed in a timely manner.”

Water distribution

While inconsistent water delivery is still common in some areas, Mr. Rymer said that improvements to the water distribution network in Sea Cows Bay have been realised thanks to leak detection exercises, waterline repairs, the installation of pumps to help water reach homes at higher elevations, and the installation of a pressure reducing station to help decrease the frequency of leaks.

But some areas, including Chalwell and Cane Garden Bay, continue to experience patchy water service, he said.

Although Mr. Rymer said that addressing this problem is his “next focus,” he did not lay out a specific plan or timeline.

In response to a question from Opposition Leader Marlon Penn, Mr. Rymer said that improvements to the water connections in the Sabbath Hill area are also upcoming, as they are included in a “territory-wide plan to address the longstanding issues of new connection to the public water network.”

While he admitted that his team had faced some challenges stemming from the pandemic and he refrained from offering expected dates of completions for the various projects included in this plan, he maintained that it is still a “high priority for his ministry.”

“The water infrastructure in the territory has been under stress for decades,” Mr. Rymer said, adding, “For this reason, with the support of the ministry, the Water and Sewerage Department has placed much emphasis on improving and enhancing the water distribution networks.”

Reservoir restoration

The minister also provided some updates on the Reservoir Restoration Project, noting that the Carrot Bay and Long Bush reservoir restoration works are well on their way, though he did not provide details.

Once work wraps up at the Carrot Bay reservoir, the restoration of the Zion Hill reservoir will commence shortly after, Mr. Rymer said.

The restoration of all three reservoirs is being coordinated by the Recovery and Development Agency, which in May and July awarded contracts worth more than $4.7 million to Autland Heavy Equipment Limited to lead the projects.

Autland’s work on the Carrot Bay and Zion Hill reservoirs — for which the firm won a $2.5 million contract — will be conducted in stages, and will include the installation of a3 22,000-gallon tank and a 323,000-gallon tank; retaining walls to protect the reservoirs; gate valves; and bulk metering gauges, Mr. Rymer said at the May contract signing.

In July, the firm was then awarded a $2.2 million contract to refurbish the Long Bush reservoir, which includes building a water tank and a neighbourhood distribution system, and restoring kerbs and roads affected by construction, RDA Head of Procurement John Primo said at the contract signing.