Between July 2021 and March 2022, it is estimated that in the cities of Medellín and Bello, thieves have stolen approximately 1,770 water meters. This affects families not only because they lose their water meter, but also because they have to replace it with their own money.
What is the Cause of These Thefts?
There are many stories of citizens who have been victims of these robberies. Like the case of Juan Gonzalo Henao, who went to bed calmly to rest after a long week of work, but did not calculate that when he woke up on Sunday it would be a nightmare: when he went to take shower, no water came out and he thought that it had been cut off for some reason or that it was a system damage. He still did not know the problem was outside his house.
When trying to verify what had happened, he went out into the street and realized that the meter had been stolen from his house and that the tube was leaking liquid. “How many hours has the stream been open?” That was his first question. He immediately reported the case to EPM and that same day they installed the new device. But it was not that simple.
“That robbery cost me more than 550,000 COP, because EPM told us that the meters are from the homes and we must pay for them,” said Gonzalo, who hopes that the press will draw attention to this problem.
And there was another surprise: it turns out that that same night two other neighbors had their meters stolen. “When the EPM workers came to put the new water meters, they told us that they had installed several of them that same day. The worst thing is that you do not notice when the thieves steal them,” said Juan Gonzalo, who lives in a building in the area known as Florida Nueva, near the Atanasio Girardot stadium.
He was also bothered to learn that these thefts have to be paid for by the owner of the property because he believed that they belonged to EPM and that the users had them on loan. He stressed that since the metal lid of the box where the meter goes was not stolen, he did not immediately notice, because the water was left dripping inside the box.
A Real Problem
Regarding this situation, EPM confirms that the problem is real and that it has become recurring. Engineer Jorge William Ramírez Tirado, manager of Water Supply, accepted that in recent months the theft of meters has increased, especially in Medellín and Bello. He attributed this to the existence of an illegal market with the elements that make up these devices, an issue that has become attractive to thieves since the meters have copper-based metal components.
He also clarified that it is true that the installation costs and the new meter must be paid by the user. The device by itself costs around 177,000 COP, but the value increases with the installation charge, possible collateral damage to neighbors, and other costs that have to do with the masonry work required.