What started with just two people voicing their upset about their unusually high water bills and the installation of water management devices on Saturday August 11, quickly swelled into a disgruntled crowd.
Among those who were part of the protest near Westgate Mall was Reverend Oscar Bougardt from Strandfontein who said his water bill, which had been around R75 a month, had increased to R1 688 a month.
“When I approached the City of Cape Town, they told me I should reduce (my) water (use). How can this be? Our family is mostly home on weekends,” he said.
Juven Rittles from Portland said he believed the matter had gotten “out of control”.
“I have a wife and four children to see to. The City is milking us dry. We cannot afford a more than a 100% jump. What about the others who cannot afford this? I didn’t care if I was standing here alone today but I had to speak up and speak out. It is not a political issue, it is a bread and butter issue.”
Faiez Jacobs, provincial secretary of the ANC, said the party was calling for high water tariffs to be scrapped.
“The big issue is our people are suffering and the tariffs are really, really high. Because of the water management devices, the bills are wrong, putting a lot of people in arrears and most of these people are poor. Our people cannot afford to pay this and asking that they scrap these bills.”
Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for area south, however, said the installation of a water management device would not necessarily result in an increased bill.
“In fact in many cases it will ensure bills remain at a manageable level for the customer, and reduce the impact of underground leaks on the customer’s bill,” he said.
“In general, sudden increases in water and sanitation accounts can be due to leaks on private infrastructure on private property.
“Faulty appliances may also contribute to increased water use, for instance failed pressure reducing valves on hot water cylinders will result in an unnoticed leak to the nearby gutter via the drain pipe of the valve.
“Dripping taps could also contribute. A fast drip that will fill a 340ml cool drink can in one minute will add 14kl to an account in a month. This could contribute significantly to water bills, especially on properties with high water usage.
“Actual readings after a period of estimated readings can affect your bill too. In previous months where City officials cannot access the meter to do a reading, an estimation will be made based on historic usage patterns at the property.
“Should a subsequent reading reflect that actual usage was higher than estimated usage, the account will be adjusted accordingly.”
Mr Andrews added that if residents suspected their meters may be faulty, they can arrange to have it tested for an additional fee which will be refunded if the calibrated water meter is found to be faulty.
“To apply for the test kindly visit your nearest municipal account enquiries office,” he said.
Mr Andrews said with the implementation of drought tariffs, any household which used more than 10.5kl a month would pay much more for the additional water used.
He also reminded residents that fixing leaks on private properties was the responsibility of the property owner.
“Under Level 6 tariffs, the cost per kilolitre in the top step (that is for use over 35kl a month) is R1000 excluding VAT, which means that the impact of an undetected leak can easily result in huge bills,” said Mr Andrews.
“To give you an idea, our by-law provides that shower heads need to provide a maximum of 10 litres per minute. An undetected leak can easily lose this much water, which would accumulate a cost of over R15 000 a day. We urge all consumers to be vigilant in leak detection and to check their meters often for unusual consumption.”
Residents can view a guide on how to find and fix leaks in their home at: www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater.
If residents would prefer to avoid estimated bills they can also submit their own meter reading by entering it online via their municipal account on the City’s e-Services portal.