And yet so expensive to manage. Or is it? What if you were told that your way of using

Akash Gura Goredo

water in your home was too inefficient, and that for each litre of water that cannot be accounted for (‘wasted’) you would be penalised for it?

Well, it depends on how you define ‘wasted’. Is it the drops that spill out when you transfer your full dekti from your sink to the stove, or between the moment you shift your toothpaste-loaded toothbrush from the tap to your mouth? Or is it when your neighbour empties his pool every week, washes his car with a hose everyday and waters his lawns and flowers every time rains stop? Is it normal to fine those who waste? How? If you examine your water bill, you may note that those who consume less pay a lower rate than the water guzzlers – it stems from the fact that when you supply small domestic users, the size of pipes is quite modest, and reflects in the consumption pattern: highly predictable and easy to manage. Compare this to the guzzlers (excuse the word, but in the context, it’s more than appropriate): see, if there were none of these large-scale water users drawing from the common mains, the water network, especially the Mauritian one, would have been much less complex. When water-intensive processes kick in, they engulf large volumes over a very short period of time (imagine say, your laundry machine starting up by pulling in its 100 litres or so, multiplied by the hundreds to get an idea of a dyeing cycle for one factory…). This quickly causes pressure to drop in the mains, and a lot of problems down the line. And the same happens when they close their taps: the large pressure builds up and, like a train wreck caused by a sudden stop with the wagons piling up into the locomotive ahead, the water hammer generated by the tap closure stresses the pipeline upstream. By ricochet, the pipe will burst at the weakest point in the line: most likely the bends, the couplings or other fixtures that are found in the network that was probably intended for only domestic supply at the origin. So, you now realise the problems caused by the prevailing absence of strategic planning at the level of water distribution – the culling of our Ministry of Planning in the 90’s, and the subsequent implementation of cost-cutting policies at all levels instead of  investing in the training and upgrading of the local staff that compounded the situation. So, saying that we now need foreign experts to manage our network therefore amounts to complain about shortness of breath while hanging ourselves at the end of a noose…

It must be realised that the provision easy access to safe, wholesome water has been one of the contributors to the well-being of the most important resource of Mauritius: its people. We, the people. The Central Water Authority has been implementing systems safeguarding this state of things over the few decades of its creation, and unbeknownst to you, monitors quality randomly almost everyday. However difficult, this public service has been performing and contributing to our collective wealth since its creation. If ever it needed to be upgraded, it should be through investment in the human resources to keep abreast with new technologies and in adapting the physical network to current and future demand –  not just changing pipes and selling promises of water supply 24/7. This is a pipe dream until it gives serious consideration to fitting into the long term planning of what Mauritius wants to be in 20, 30, 50 years’ time. Without this, the pipes constituting the network will not live up to their expected 125 years’ intended lifetime when properly designed and administered – meaning in a proper context.

Yesterday it was MT – a bad quality phone call may be harmless, but a bad quality of water threatens your life. Today it’s the CWA. And tomorrow, who knows: Cargo Handling, Airports of Mauritius, CEB… the jewels in the crown of Mauritius are at stake and we must be very careful: we need strong policy on the consolidation of these assets to our country before it’s too late.