Like water for credit

A new water metering solution can assist consumers to learn good water habits while helping them improve their credit rating.

March 26, 2014

A new water metering solution can assist consumers to learn good water habits while helping them improve their credit rating.

Some economists suggest that nearly a third of the credit active population of South Africa show signs of over-indebtedness. Naturally, this means their credit rating is low, making it difficult for these consumers to make any positive changes to their lives. In many instances, consumers are in debt to municipalities for their water and lights bills – in fact, some eight million people are known to be in exactly such a position.

However, says Larry Symington of MyWater, there is a tool available for citizens that can assist them to improve their credit ratings and reduce their water bills.

“The MyWater meter enables consumers to keep track of exactly what their monthly water costs are, while encouraging good water use habits through alarms that warn the user if water has been running for more than 15 minutes at a time. The meter is connected – via the cloud – to both the municipality, which also receives constant updates, reducing its need to send out meter readers, and the user’s cell phone. This means the consumer always knows what is going on with his water account,” he says.

Symington adds that the water account can also be paid via the cell phone. More critically, he says that credit providers have agreed that they will give consumers additional credit rating points for timeous payment in this manner.

“MyWater meters offer a whole lot more than just improved credit ratings, however. These meters can also be of enormous benefit to the municipalities themselves, as they could eliminate the need for a municipality to print out and send invoices every month, which can be an expensive undertaking.”

“Furthermore, since the vast majority of citizens are currently in arrears, these municipalities are losing out on a lot of potential interest. By encouraging citizens to pay their water bill timeously, municipalities would find themselves with more money available to improve services.”

Symington explains that MyWater will lease the metering equipment to customers on a full maintenance contract, for a fixed pricing term. He adds that the company is currently lobbying municipalities to encourage people to invest in the technology by wiping away their existing arrears and offering them a fresh start. In this way, the people are well positioned to remain current with their payments, which will lead directly to improved credit ratings. At the same time, municipalities benefit by receiving timeous payments and earning more interest on these, so it is a true win-win situation.

“Furthermore, there is the potential for large enterprises to get involved in a project of this nature through a social responsibility programme. They could purchase these meters for their employees, or even offer to do this for the broader community in their area.”

In line with the desire to encourage good water habits amongst members of the community, Symington suggests that there is also the opportunity for consumers to become involved in a rewards programme that could trade good water habits for airtime, in much the same way customer loyalty programmes work in the major retail stores.

“Finally, the installation of these meters can serve as a springboard to encourage small business development, as the plan is to use local emerging plumbers to install the MyWater solution.”

“MyWater’s initial brief was to develop a technology that was disruptive in nature and offered consumers the opportunity to positively impact their credit ratings. At the same time, this new solution could not negatively impact on the price of water and it had to remain compliant with municipal bylaws. I believe that with this new meter, that is exactly what we have achieved,” he concludes.