The Water and Sanitation Corporation (Wasac) has launched an ambitious bid to recover more than Rwf240 million in unpaid water bills in Rwamagana, Gatsibo and Kayonza districts. The defaulters, that number up to 7,000, have accumulated the debts in a period of between five months and six years. Briefing journalists in Kayonza yesterday, Wasac director for Eastern Province, Emiry Karemera, said the agency could be forced to cut off water to thousands of residents. “Many consumers have not paid bills for a long time. At least Rwf246 million is a bad debt. The majority of debts are in Kayonza, Gatsibo follows while Rwamagana has the least. But we will leave no stone unturned to recover the money,” he said. Karemera attributed the failure to pay water bills to people’s poor attitude toward the services they get from the utility. “It is not because people don’t have money, but failure to respect the service we give them. People don’t care as months accumulate without payment. It is a culture we must reverse,” he said. “Our intention is not to deny people access to water, but to educate them on the importance of paying bills in time and this will take more than Wasac staff; local leaders, too, must get involved.” However, residents faulted the water agency, saying its system was to blame for the accumulation of the debts. Gregory Ndayambaje, from Rwamagana, told The New Times that the billing system has not been consistent. “We are sometimes given inflated bills without explanation. Imagine using water for only domestic purposes but you get a bill of Rwf50,000 a month. Such inconsistencies explain why there is a big debt hanging. Let them try cash water,” he said. Jeanne Murekeyisoni, from Kayonza, said the big debt was shocking because water is scarce in the area. “We rarely get water in Kayonza, I thought they would be talking of giving us enough water. If you get water once a week, you don’t see any point in paying a bill,” she said. At least 75 per cent of citizens have access to clean water. The government targets universal access to clean water by 2017.