Many Jakarta Residents Avoid Piped Water
Despite the availability of tap water, many Jakartans still prefer to use groundwater, contributing to land subsidence and leakage from water pipes, PT Aetra Air Jakarta said on the weekend.
Syahril Japarin, president of Aetra, the private operator in charge of supplying tap water to the eastern part of Jakarta, said 41 percent of its customers use piped water only as a reserve.
He said that through December, about 160,000 of Aetra’s 382,693 customers used less than 10 cubic meters per month. He added that 60,000 of these did not use the piped water at all. The average usage is about 30 cubic meters per month.
“They use groundwater the most. This causes Aetra’s pipes to be damaged because the water pressure is high but the water is not dispersed properly. It’s like being clogged because customers did not open their faucets,” he said.
Syahril said the high water pressure could cause the pipes to crack, leading to water leakage.
“This is the main cause of the high percentage of water loss,” he said.
Almost half of the water the company produces is recorded as “non-revenue,” which means lost or stolen.
“Many customers, especially in the South Jakarta area, whose groundwater is still good prefer to use the groundwater even though the groundwater in Jakarta is heavily contaminated,” he said.
Syahril said Aetra hopes the city administration will implement a policy to reduce groundwater usage and prevent land subsidence from getting worse.
The administration last year issued a gubernatorial decree increasing the groundwater tariff. The increase saw industries paying up to six times more for groundwater, with charges up from Rp 3,300 (35 cents) per cubic meter to Rp 23,000.
Wealthy households also now pay up to 16 times more than previously, with charges increasing from Rp 525 to Rp 8,800 per cubic meter.
Aetra charges an average of Rp 5,670 per cubic meter.
However, Irzal Djamal, head of Jakarta’s water regulatory body, said Aetra needs to check thoroughly on the minimum usage of its 160,000 customers, and “whether they don’t use the piped water because they prefer to use groundwater, they want to save water, or because they have opened their faucets night and day and only little drops of water comes out.”
Irzal said Aetra should map out the actual water pressure within pipes throughout its coverage area to determine the real reason for the low water consumption.
He said only about a third of Aetra’s pipes had ideal pressure, mostly in the Kelapa Gading area.
Similarly, Hamong Santono, executive director of the People’s Coalition for the Right to Water (Kruha), said the low usage by Aetra’s customers could be due to difficulties getting the water.
“Aetra should focus on increasing its service to customers whose tap water still doesn’t run smoothly,” he said, adding that those customers have to pay more for water cans that cost Rp 1,500 each. One family can take up to 10 cans per day.
Meanwhile, Joshua L Tobing, Aetra’s c orporate secretary, said the company would invest Rp 300 billion this year for 232 kilometers of new pipes.
The program is planned to be completed by June.