Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Water tariffs to remain on same ten-year level

Posted by Kimberly on July 26, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
July
26, 2007, page 6 (887 words)

Water tariffs will not be increased, according to Mr Franklin Willemyns, Excutive Director of Macao Water, who spoke at the 2nd meeting of the 4th Customer Liaison Group (CLG), at Macau Tower yesterday.
“I have to remind also that our tariffs are at the same level as in 1997 which means we’ve had the same tariffs for more than 10 years,” he said.
He added that one of the aims of the meeting was to provide an overview of the different tariff structures around the world and that while there was a lot of opinion from academics regarding tariffs, “I personally believe the tariff structure in Macau is quite simple and well adapted,” he said.
“Although we know that minimum consumption is one of the issues for which we perhaps have to think in the future to adapt this concept,” he said, adding that this was just at the study level for the moment.
Asked whether Macao Water was considering the cancellation of minimum consumption, he said that for the time being, the company was studying different options.
“It’s really too early to say if we will propose or not some changes in the future,” he said.
The other major point of discussion was whether Macau was in a position to re-use seawater for flushing, although Mr Willemyns admitted that little progress had been made.
“Seawater flushing is a very expensive option in terms of capital investment and the infrastructure because you need to double the network,” he said.
That means the current network of 500 kilometres would double, adding pressure to the already over-extended framework that exists underneath Macau’s streets.
“We have already under the road, water, sewerage, rainwater, telephone, electricity and in the future gas,” said Mr Willemyns.
“To add even more, as you know, there have even been power shortages and water interruptions due to all these works,” he said, suggesting that the idea of a second network was not a good one for Macau, especially as it would need to be done in every single building.
“Of course some people ask why we don’t do it at least in some areas but the issues are more or less the same,” he said.
With Hong Kong’s success in utilising this option, it’s natural to assume Macau could go down the same track, but Mr Willemyns stressed that Macau’s seawater was different to Hong Kong’s, particularly in regards to quality.
“I have to say that in Hong Kong, seawater flushing is entirely subsidised by the government which is quite expensive. So the public does not feel the cost of this kind of option.
“I wonder if this would be the case in Macau but if this solution were to be charged to the customer in Hong Kong maybe it would not be so popular,” he said.
As well, there was no possibility of introducing it in new areas such as Taipa and the Cotai strip because, “even in the new areas from the perspective of the infrastructure and cost it can be quite an expensive option I would say,” said Mr Willemyns.
“I don’t believe that it could be done at a lower cost like normal water,” he added, pointing out that seawater flushing such as that seen in Hong Kong, “is not used world wide very much and the reason why is that it is a very expensive option.”
He saw no water restriction problems occurring in Macau.
He suggested that it was the opinion of those the company had consulted with, that it was not the best option for Macau, but added that “of course once it’s requested that we provide such a service then Macao Water can do it.”
As for Macao Water’s salinity forecast for the year, Mr Willemyns said that “it’s pretty early to have any forecast for the future but I have to say that first of all, the Ping Gang project will be operational throughout the seasons,” he said.
The Ping Gang project aims to shift raw water intake on the Xijiang river 20 kilometres upstream, to avoid the salt tide which plagues the Gunagdong province each dry season.
“I know that last year it only came into operation by late December but we already have it operational now so this will certainly help,” said Mr Willemyns.
He added that Macau still needed the support from Mainland China authorities “in terms of the raw water resources management and I believe that this region will continue to receive the support in the future.”
On a final note, while Mr Willemyns admitted that water demand had been increasing, this increase had been forecasted and was in line with that forecast.
“We had forecasted an increase of 10 percent for this year and so far, I think we are between 10 and 11 percent right now so we are pretty much within our forecast,” he said, adding that investments had been made to cope with all the increases in demand.
“As you know, beginning of this year, we already had the new plant in Coloane and we are now building a very big investment and very new updated technology and plant at the MSR, the main reservoir,” he said.
He remained confident that Macao Water was doing all the necessary infrastructure investment needed to cope with Macau’s booming economy.

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