We all need water to live, and a reliable water supply service is essential to every development project. Every development plan has to answer the critical questions of “How will the development be supplied with water?” and “How will the wastes generated by the developers and the development be treated and disposed of?”
Although the National Water Commission (NWC) is the premier provider of water and sewerage services in Jamaica, a number of private entities have been licensed by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to provide services in specific areas; and the various Parish Councils are also involved in water services islandwide.
With treatment of about 190 million gallons per day, NWC produces more than 90% of Jamaica’s total potable water supply - using over 9,000 kilometres of water pipes connected to more than 400 different sources and more than 500 kilometres of sewer mains across the island - most development projects can take place by mutual agreement to connect to existing NWC facilities. Some new development projects however, cannot be served from the existing networks. These would need either new facilities (constructed either by NWC or by the developer) or the expansion of the existing facilities.
Like in many other countries, Impact Fees or System Development Charges (SDC’s) negotiated by the NWC are designed to recover a proportion of the capital costs required to improve, expand or create the required water and/or sewerage facilities in order to meet the needs of new development projects.
Impact Fees are neither new nor limited to the NWC as according to the American Water and Waste-water Association (AWWA), “A growing number of water utilities employ system development charges to assign to future customers the capital cost responsibility of system capacity that is or will be available for future customers." Throughout the United States, SDC’s (also referred to as Impact Fees or plant investment fees) are used to finance some capital improvements. These charges are designed specifically to pay for the capacity costs associated with growth. Special charges for new developments date back to the 1930’s. System Development Charges are more frequently used as a source of capital financing in large- and medium-sized urban areas, in high-growth locations, and in areas of scarce water supply. Existing customers in regions with extensive growth or potential growth may benefit greatly from these charges. SDC’s assign the capacity cost of growth, at least in part, to those causing the growth rather than to existing customers.”
The need to set Impact Fees arise where the NWC has either recently done, or would need to do, major infrastructure development in order to provide water and/or wastewater services to a development. These infrastructure projects often have to be funded by loans obtained by the NWC on the basis that there will at least be a partial recovery of these capital costs to pay back these loans.
Areas in which the NWC has recently borrowed to undertake new or expanded systems include:
Given that the rates charged for the delivery of water do not recover capital costs, the NWC would not be in a position to effectively develop or expand its systems on a timely basis to meet the needs of new developers without the use of Impact Fees. In other words, Impact Fees or SDCs enable the NWC to put the required infrastructure in place to facilitate developers and their development plans.
Charging Impact Fees is a structured approach to finance water supply and sewerage projects to need development needs and provides benefits to existing customers, the utility, developers as well as the country. Some of these benefits include:
The calculation of Impact Fees is guided by the following principles:
The System Development Charges (SDC’s) or Impact Fees applied by the NWC on new developments provide an equitable and structured mechanism to recover or offset a proportionate share of the capital costs associated with building new or expanded facilities in order serve new developments. With the funds from these fees, the NWC commits to put in place the required infrastructure to provide an adequate water and/or wastewater service, thereby facilitating planned developments across Jamaica.