Water Authority profits surge

The Samoa Water Authority (S.W.A.) nearly tripled its net profit in 2018-19 to reach nearly $640,000, a report from the organisation has revealed. 

The report attributes the improvement in the organisation's fiscal position from a profit of $218,000 the year prior to stricter controls on its spending.

The S.W.A. says the profit increase is in spite of climate change challenges which increase the difficulty of connecting all of its customers to a reliable water supply.

The Authority’s bottom line has also, it says, been hurt by a significant decrease in its Community Service Obligation grant. 

Community Service Obligations are budget allocations from the Government which S.W.A. is obliged to disburse in line with its social obligations to the community. 

In 2016-17 the Authority’s Community Service Obligation grants amounted to $3.4 million. 

But they have since been reduced and for Financial Year under review totaled $2 million. 

“Due to stricter controls on spending, but ensuring S.W.A. water services [are] not jeopardised. The S.W.A. was able to increase net profit from last year despite the drop in Community Service Obligation funds,” the report says. 

The report says that the $2 million in Community Service Obligations were primarily spent on its rural and Savai’i borehole schemes. 

The Authority also collected $246,094 in bad debts according to the S.W.A. annual report. 

But receipts from customers continue to represent the Authority’s principal income stream. In 2018-19 they amounted to $21.6 million - an increase of $2.7 million from the year prior. 

“The Authority continues to positively progress in providing quality service to our customers in return for them to become more willing to pay for services,” the report says. 

The S.W.A. says it has also implemented new and more rigorous measures to collect outstanding debts with the organisation’s entire staff participating in weekly disconnection programmes. 

But the S.W.A has also initiated a programme of assistance for low-income families in hardship circumstances, particularly those with elderly family members or relatives with special needs, who have been disconnected from the water network for extended periods. 

The community assistance programme is carried out through visits to customers’ homes. 

The S.W.A. reports that 2018-2019 brought new challenges to the Authority including the impact of climate change on establishing reliable water supply routes. 

The Authority attributes climate change to the challenge of supplying some of its customers with continuous water supply..

“During the dry season in the first quarter of the financial year to vulnerable areas, water had been rationed to ensure customers at least received water some of the time in Nu’u Fou areas,” the report said. 

“While with the rainfall patterns changing, the turbidity problem from the main rivers continued to cause issues to the Authority’s operations from the Alaoa, Malololelei and Fuluasou treatment plants, however, increased maintenance of these plants enabled continuous supply to our customers. 

“The planning and design of a suitable infrastructure to be constructed for the inland relocation drift continues to be a challenge as many people are moving further inland where there is no existing water supply infrastructure.”

The Authority says its future plans to combat supply issues include a lengthy and comprehensive project involving hydrogeological research and the design, tender, and commissioning of new infrastructure. That plan is subject to Government funding approval. 

As an interim measure, the Authority has allowed certain customers too far from the nearest S.W.A. water main or connection point to obtain water supply on the contingency that they sign a waiver or consent form beforehand. 

The connections to these properties, due to their distance from the main water main, means they cannot receive a guaranteed round-the-clock water supply. The customers are required to acknowledge that they will instead be satisfied with intermittent supply. 

“While this is not an ideal situation, it is seen as a reasonable interim measure until such time when the SWA is able to install a more permanent solution for these outlying remote areas and applicants,” the report says. 

Another challenge listed by the S.W.A. is the ongoing transfer of villages that were previously served by independent water schemes to the S.W.A.'s management, requiring, the Authority says, significant upgrades to their infrastructure.  

“Many if not all of these schemes have operated haphazardly over the years, regulated only by the water committees in each village and consequently much of their infrastructure is aging, requiring repair or replacement and constructed in non-compliance to S.W. A. construction standards,” the report says. 

“The costly implications of having to transfer the independent water scheme to the S. W. A., though it is still in a discussion stage presents a problem in terms of costs and capacity required to replace and manage these schemes which need to be budgeted for before the S.W.A. can accept to assume ownership of a scheme.”

 



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