Solomon Water provided answers to questions frequently asked by consumers as a result of the continuous shut down of their Kongulai water source during bad weather and heavy rain affecting thousands of homes in Honiara.
This was during a stakeholders briefing Solomon Water hosted on Thursday 18th July 2019.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
1. WHY MUST KONGULAI SHUTDOWN DURING RAINY TIME?
Solomon Water is obliged to provide safe water that meets World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. We do not have a treatment plant at Kongulai (nor Rove nor Kombito). When there is high turbidity our disinfection process cannot kill bacteria and bugs so we cannot produce safe water. The silt and sediment will also block our systems and customers pipes and appliances.
2. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY TURBIDITY?
Turbidity refers to how clear the water is. The main causes of turbidity are sediments and silt mainly from soil erosion and decomposed organic matter such as dead leaves, animals and algae.
3. IS WATER QUALITY TESTING DONE? HOW OFTEN IS IT DONE?
Water Quality Testing for free chlorine residual and turbidity is done daily whilst bacterial testing for Total coliform and E.coli is done twice per week. The monitoring is carried out as per the Solomon Water’s Water supply network protocols to meet WHO standards. In times of high turbidity at the source, the source is monitored more frequently say once every hour or two depending on the rate of increase in turbidity observed. Monitoring of the network is also monitored frequently so that flushing out can be done or during flushing out where the turbidity will be compared to that of the source water.
4. WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO GET A FILTRATION PLANT?
Solomon Water has been working on building a treatment plant at Kongulai for over a year now, well before the logging operations caused significant disruption to supply. Detailed design is underway, and construction should be complete by May 2021. It is about SBD$120m to build and will cost several millions dollars per year more than our current pumping station to operate. A temporary treatment plant to treat some of the water is being worked on, and should be commissioned by March 2020.
5. WHAT ARE SOLOMON WATER’S ALTERNATIVE SOURCE DURING RAINY SEASONS/SHUTDOWNS?
We are currently using all sources and have to rely on bores only following heavy rain. There are no alternatives until a treatment plant is operational.
6. WHY SOLOMON WATER DO NO USE THE JICA BOREHOLES? IF THEY HAVE BEEN USED CAN IT BEEN USED AS ALTERNATIVE TO KONGULAI?
Every borehole is being used full time. We have no spare capacity and cannot meet daily demand even without rain.
7. WHY THE COST/TARIFF FOR WATER HIGH COMPARED TO OTHER COUNTRIES?
Solomon water receives a minimal Community Support Obligation (CSO) from SIG to support unsustainable activities in Auki and Tulagi. It is around 3 % of total operating cost, and we have only received this CSO 3 times in the past 5 years. Water Authority Fiji receives about 70% operating subsidy from the Fiji government so can provide low cost water, as does Eda Ranu and Water PNG in Papua New Guinea. Over 30% of our operating costs are electricity and Solomon Islands also has very expensive electricity.
8. WHY INCREASE TARIFF WHEN SERVICE BELOW CUSTOMERS’ EXPECTATION?
There was no increase since October 2016 and the 2019 tariff has still not caught up with the cost of living since 2016. We acknowledge that our service has not been the best lately, however we are planning major upgrades to all our areas of operations. There is over SBD 750 m in donor, government and SW funded projects over the next 7 years. We need increases in tariff to be able to fund our share of this work (about $10m per year).
9. WHAT IS SOLOMON WATER DOING TO IMPROVE THIS SITUATION?
We have a range of actions underway including:
- Re-commissioning 2 bores at White River – October 2019
- Temporary treatment plant for Kongulai to treat some of the water during shutdowns
- Commission March 2020
- Treatment plant under design to treat entire Kongulai water – commission May 2021.
- Increasing water production at other locations
- Increasing storage volume – May 2021
- Increasing water loss reduction
- More work teams recruited
- Targeting leaks and theft
- Encouraging Ministries to manage loggers and rehabilitate damage caused
- Increasing information to public
- Requested SIG to form working group to manage the land management / catchment issues
- Asked SIG / donors for financial help
Longer term actions could include:
- Investigating carbon credit scheme –landowner compensation to preserve forest
- Work with Landowners to replant trees
- Working with Landowners to preserve the catchments
- Water Catchment area declaration – Kohove
- Possible acquisition of the catchment areas
10. DURING KONGULAI SHUTDOWN, CAN SOLOMON WATER DO WATER DELIVERY USING TANKERS? IS THAT A SERVICE SOLOMON WATER CAN DO?
We have looked into this and it is not feasible nor practical to supply water by tanker.
11. WHY SOLOMON WATER DID NOT PROTECT OR PURCHASE THE CATCHMENT AREAS IN THE PAST WHICH WOULD AVOID ALL THAT IS HAPPENING.
A Water catchment area declaration was made over the Kongulai catchment a number of years ago. Government has looked previously at the cost of acquiring the catchment but not proceeded with this purchase or other protection.
12. DURING SHUT DOWN NOTICES WHY IS THERE NO TIME OF RESTORATION OF SUPPLY INCLUDED?
Time is not included in our notices for restoration of supply, as it is determined by turbidity which is related to weather/rain upstream.
Even if we can restart the pumps, it may take up to 24 hours to refill the tanks and pipes and for customers to begin getting water again.
13. GIVEN THE WATER QUALITY IS SOMETIMES DIRTY, WILL CUSTOMERS STILL PAY THE NORMAL PRICE OR BE CHARGED AT A LOWER RATE?
We do our best to prevent dirty water but at times it can be cloudy, especially when we begin to resupply. It can affect some customers and we cannot determine where they will be or for how long. Unfortunately, the cost of managing the water system does not change and it is impossible to charge customers a different rate.