Free water costs city N$90 million

Water usage more than doubles
The City of Windhoek spent N$90 million on water that was provided free of charge during the Covid-19 pandemic from March 2020 to residents of informal settlements.
Yolanda Nel
The City of Windhoek (CoW) spent N$90 million on water that was offered free of charge during the Covid-19 pandemic from March 2020 to residents living in informal settlements.
The CoW announced on 18 March that they are in the process of closing these taps and that residents will need to use their water tokens and buy water in future.
According to City spokesperson Lydia Amutenya, there are 35 502 registered token holders in Windhoek's informal settlements. “Residents had access to 1 310 community taps during the past two years to get water,” she said.
When broken down, the cost of water used per household amounts to N$105 per month. However, the City noticed a massive increase in water usage since the water was offered free of charge. “The consumption was 33 008.82 cubic meters per month which more than doubled to 69 844.38 cubic meters per month during the pandemic.”
Some residents still filling up their containers and making use of the free water on Monday were not aware that the CoW is in the process of closing these taps. One resident said she is thankful that the City offered water free of charge during the pandemic, but that it will place a financial burden on her family once they have to pay for water. She has to walk about a kilometre to her nearest water stand and fills her 20 liter can three times a week.
When asked if free water is the solution for better living conditions, Amutenya said that there are other factors pertaining to better living conditions. “However, anything free will help those without means of survival.” She added that unfortunately, it is not sustainable to provide free water because someone must pay for the cost of the services from the bulk services provider and thus consumed services must be paid for – for sustainability.
According to a municipal notice, the supply of free water has caused a financial burden to Council and thus it was resolved to stop the supply of free water and reinstate the prepaid water system.
Water tokens can be bought from municipal offices.