Ho Chi Minh City has been losing 33.5 percent of its tap water every day due to leaky and broken pipes, while many families in the outskirts have to resort to polluted water sources.
A new report from the city’s water supply company Sawaco said the loss rate measured at the end of 2014 was 500,000 cubic meters (17,657,333 cubic feet) per day. That is equal to the daily capacity of a medium-sized water plant in the city.
Experts familiar with the matter said the loss rate is too high compared to 5-7 percent in most countries, and 8 percent in nearby Binh Duong and Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.
The daily loss is worth $123,000, based on Sawaco’s lowest water rate of VND5,300 a cubic meter.
Dang Van Khoa, a former member of the city’s legislative office, estimated that the amount of water lost is enough for 750,000 people.
Pham Van Dong, in charge of economic and budget issues at the office, said Sawaco may raise prices to fund water loss control and consumers will be the ultimate victims.
The state-owned company in January said the city government has approved its plan to hike water prices by 10.5 percent every year for the next five years. But critics opposed the plan, urging it to reduce water leakage to cut costs instead.
Dr. Ngo Hoang Van from Ho Chi Minh’s Water and Environment Association said the city needs to restructure the system that manages water supply, which is supervised by the Transport Department.
Van said the $44 million-plus World Bank-backed project for reducing water loss in the city the past years was “ineffective.”
The city needs to explain why the project failed, he said.
An unidentified representative of Sawaco admitted that there are weaknesses in the management.
But he said there are also other causes, such as infrastructure works which damage the pipe network, and the large number of connecting points in the network which make leaks more likely than in other cities.
An engineer working for Sawaco, who did not want to be named, said the main reason of the leaks is that “many parts of the water infrastructure are too old.”
Families that do not have access to tap water have to buy these cans every day. Photo: Diep Duc Minh
Some were built more than 30 years ago, and some dated back to the colonial ear, he said, adding that new parts were not even of high quality because the contractors may have tried to pocket some money.
The huge water loss is even more questionable considering many residents still lack access to clean water.
Thousands of families in outlying districts have lived with ground water for years, a source that has been running short and becoming polluted recently.
The city has estimated that it will need another VND68 billion, or more than $3 million to bring water to all houses in the city by 2025.