Friday, September 03, 2004

Leakages blamed for lax water supply

Source: The Jakarta Post

Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

"We can swim! We can swim!" a girl is heard shouting in a radio ad. Then, there is the voice of her father saying that the water is dirty, because it comes from leaking pipes. The father then calls on radio listeners to report all leakages in their neighborhood to their tap water operator.

That scene may be familiar for tap water customers in the capital as they still have to deal with water shortages due to leaking pipes and illegal connections.

The lack of a comprehensive system in monitoring the supply of water by tap water operators in the city is believed to be the cause of water losses, which currently stands at 47 percent of water supply, according to Poltak H. Situmorang, chairman of the Indonesian Water Contractors Association (Akaindo) Jakarta chapter.

"The operators no longer use a 'district meter' system to maintain their water pipe network," he said on Wednesday. "They have merely reduced their water flow and even pushed for water rate hikes to compensate for the deficits due to water losses."

Poltak explained that in 1987, the city tap water operator PD PAM Jaya launched an improvement system, and contracted Akaindo to install and utilize an array of water meters on the pipes all the way down to the district level to monitor and detect water losses.

During the program, PAM Jaya managed to reduce the losses from 63 percent in Tanjung Duren to only 27 percent, from 35 percent in Senayan to 16 percent and from 65 percent to 27 percent in Pluit.

With the current tap water production of some 11 cubic meters per second, the maximum tolerable water loss is 20 percent to ensure that every customer gets water.

In 1998, PAM Jaya signed contracts with British water company Thames Water International and French water company Lyonnaise des Eaux, to establish PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja) and PT Thames PAM Jaya (TPJ), to manage the city's water service. Those two companies no longer use Akaindo members for piping needs.

Poltak and Akaindo also alleged that the foreign water operators had simply reduced the water flow in an effort to reduce water losses.

"Reducing the water flow will eventually decrease pressure and less water will flow out of leaking pipes," he said. "But it also means that many customers will likely experience dry taps due to a lack of flow and pressure."

What has been more unfair to customers, Poltak said, was that the operators had regularly pushed for water rate hikes, although their efforts to fix leaking pipes were questionable.

Aikindo has some 300 water contractors as its members and has cooperated with PAM Jaya in building more than 900 kilometers of tap water piping in the city.

Officials from Palyja and TPJ, however, disagreed with Poltak's statements.

TPJ external relations and communication director, Rhamses Simanjuntak, explained that his company's use of variable water pressure equipment in its pipe network was necessary to prevent aging pipes from bursting.

"We also still use the district meter system and have a special division to handle leakages," he said.

Palyja public relations manager, Maria Sidabutar, meanwhile, said her company makes daily checks of the pipe network and has rehabilitated a total of 585 kilometers of pipes in their efforts to reduce water losses.

TPJ stated that it had managed to decrease water losses to 43 percent from 58 percent in 1998, while Palyja to 45 percent from 61 percent.

The two foreign companies also called on the residents to file reports of leakages in their neighborhoods, so that they could send a team to repair the pipes.