Residents urged to watch water usage

Wolfgat Sub-council chairman Solomon Philander has warned Mitchell’s Plain residents to watch their water usage as the new domestic water metering system kicks in.

Mitchell’s Plain residents will later this month have their water meters switched on to “open flow”.

He said ratepayers exceeding the free 500 litres of water per day would thereafter have to pay for their water use and that possible leaks would only be detected months later.

“Residents would have to pay for any water used beyond the free water,” he explained.

Mr Philander said it would take about two months for residents to detect a leak, wasting water, and that they would be billed accordingly.

He said some ratepayers welcomed the change, because there were several families living on a property but that there were also families who managed their free daily allowance.

As of July 1 the City of Cape Town no longer installs water management device meters (WMDs).

Existing WMD meters will be set to “open flow” but this will be phased in and ratepayers will now be required to keep their monthly water use within a limit approved by council.

The phased out system used to automatically enforce a drip system once the allocated water was used up.

With the open flow system, the daily quota has increased from 350 liters a day to 500 litres a day, with a total of up to 15 000 litres a month.

Council agreed to this new system, which forms part of the changes to the Tariff Policy as per the 2021/22 Tabled Budget that was approved in June.

City contractors started switching on the new system in Tafelsig on Friday July 30 and will move to Beacon Valley next week.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, said both ratepayers (non-indigent) and registered indigent residents have a responsibility to manage and monitor the amount of water they use during the month, including fixing leaks on their properties to avoid wasting water and high bills.

“All registered indigent households will receive this allocation of water and the related 70% calculated for sanitation at no charge per month from July 1. This is the largest allocation provided at no cost to indigent households in the country,” she said.

She said leaks on private plumbing would be counted by the meter as part of usage, and property owners must act quickly to fix leaks.

“Households should check their monthly bills and usage each month for any significant spikes or high monthly usage as an alert to underground leaks,” she said.

The City will still assist with once-off fixing of leaks on the indigent property where this has not been provided previously.

Ms Limberg said the City would help residents manage their water consumption by warning them if they were using too much water.

“Only if residents fail to respond to the warning will their water be reduced to 6000 litres per month,” she said.

Usage exceeding 15 000 litres a month for a third consecutive month, despite the issued warning, then a flow restricting disc will be inserted in the meter to limit water supply to a trickle flow.

These discs are designed to allow 6 000 litres (6kl) per month to the property, which is aligned with the free basic allocation provided for in South Africa’s national water standards.

This disc will remain in place for the following 12 consecutive months. After the 12-month period has passed, the disc will be removed and the same process for the property will start again.

Residents currently exceeding the usage limit will be informed early in the new financial year, from July, to ensure further awareness of the new procedures and allow for change of behaviour during the first two billing cycles within the new financial year before warning letters are sent to customers.

Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association deputy chairman Michael Jacobs welcomed the new system but said the City must hold information sessions and workshops to educate homeowners on how to manage their water budget.

“It is also now an opportunity for the City to make amends on its previous punitive measures to do away with the fixed water pipe levy to secure the communities buy-in on the new water management system,” he said.

Mr Jacobs said they support any measures which would lead to the saving and economical use of water, which is a scarce resource.

He said in certain parts of Mitchell’s Plain residents preferred to be on the free flow of water, as they could afford it and should be allowed to manage their water usage.

Mr Jacobs said the free water which residents accumulated over a month is lost and that the new system would bring some relief, where there are backyarders and more than one family on a property.

Beacon Valley resident Caroline Snyman, 55, who has 10 people living on her property, among them her disabled son, 30, welcomed the increase because after 6pm in the evening she would have to ask her neighbours for water.

“By us there has always been a shortage of water. By 6pm we do not have water and I either have to ask my neighbours to help or go fetch at the church,” she said.

Ms Snyman said they cannot do without water and that she sometimes paid R5 to R10 for someone to fill her 5-litre bottles of water.

“I would much rather put that money spent daily towards paying for my water at the end of the month.

“It will help me so I don’t have to bother other people for water,” she said.

Ms Snyman said only her boyfriend works and that she and her daughters manage to pay the bills with the disability grant money of her son and her grandchildren.

An Eastridge woman, who refused to be named, said she lived in her house with her two sons and in the backyard, in a wendy house were her son, his wife and their two children.

They had requested a water increase months ago but were unsuccessful. They have, however, learned to manage their water budget, he said.

She said they take turns doing the laundry and that they accumulate water but at the end of the month it falls away, which has them waiting for water at the start of the month.