While the Guyana Government has recorded improvements in the overall supply of water in the country, complaints continue to mount over quality. As a result, the administration is pulling out all the stops to ensure it addresses the “red water” coming through taps by plugging significant investments into the construction of new structures and the overhaul of existing facilities.
Making this disclosure in the National Assembly on Thursday was the Housing and Water Minister, Collin Croal, who told the house that the challenges being faced by the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) are a direct result of the “mismanagement” of the entity by the former A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) between 2015 and 2020.
The Minister noted that when the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) assumed office in August 2020, the coverage of treated water to households was a “mere” 52 per cent in Regions Two to Six.
He noted that his ministry immediately recognised the equal importance of increased coverage and improved quality. This led to the PPP/C embarking on a series of initiatives to revolutionise the sector. He said that some $15B have since been spent during the last three years to accomplish this feat.
He added that the government anticipates that 96 per cent (at minimum) of the coastal population should have access to treated water by 2025. The targeted areas also include the new and developing housing areas along the coastal regions.
Zeroing in on hinterland water coverage, the Minister noted that the GWI has recorded a 30 per cent increase in access to potable water. He noted that in 2020, when the PPP/C took office, hinterland coverage was at 45 per cent.
“We are now, in under three years, 75 per cent access and before 2025, we will have 100 per cent access to Hinterland water delivery,” he boasted.
He hastened to add that some 35,000 citizens across the country have received first-time access to water between 2020 and 2023.
Croal said that the Guyana Water Incorporated, which was facing a “near financial collapse” with an operating loss of $1.1B, has now found solid financial footing thanks to the allocation of millions of dollars in bailouts.
In providing a snapshot of GWI’s financial state between 2015 and 2020, Croal told the House that even with increased tariffs, the entity’s financial woes persisted. He noted that during that period also, employment costs rose by a staggering 153 per cent.
“As of August 2020, GWI’s debt to suppliers was $783M…In three years, through this government, we have allocated 800M to clear all of GWI’s outstanding debt. We have reduced our supplier debt.
The Minister added that some 5,000 customers were denied service connections during 2015 and 2020 due to GWI’s depleted inventory levels. He reported that over 8,000 water leaks were unaddressed.
“Thanks to this government, in three years, by the end of last year, more than 30 new wells were drilled, and 7,684 leaks were successfully repaired. Repairs were also carried out on several deteriorating water treatment plants including the one at Eccles, East Bank Demerara,” he noted.