Mixed reaction to water tariff drop

Threewaterskloof Dam.

Activist group Stop City of Cape Town (COCT) has welcomed the City’s easing of water restrictions but says the “late and inadequate tariff reduction” only benefits some people.

Come Monday October 1, Capetonians can each use up to 70 litres of water a day after the City said this week it would roll back water restrictions and tariffs from Level 6B to Level 5.

Level 6B, imposed in February, rationed Capetonians to 50 litres a day.

A City statement on Monday said dams were 68% full after good rains – an “improvement” on the 38% they had been at the previous winter.

“The daily collective consumption target will increase by 50 million litres to 500 million litres to ensure that water conservation efforts remain in place,” said the statement.

Tariffs for Level 5 restrictions, excluding VAT, include:

0 – 6 kl: Down 26.6% from R28.90/kl to R21.19/kl

6 – 10.5kl: Down 25% from R46/kl to R34.43/kl

10 – 35 kl: Down 56% from R120.27/kl to R52.39/kl

Above 35 kl: Down 70% from R1 000/kl to R300/kl

Sandra Dickson, from Stop COCT, said those using more than 35kl per month would benefit the most.

“Users of more than 35kl are rewarded with a 70% reduction in tariffs, while users between 0-6kl are still punished with a reduction of only R7 a kilolitre (26.6%). The ‘pipe levy’ remains unchanged,” said Ms Dickson.

Late last month, Stop COCT launched a campaign to force the City to lower the “punitive” Level 6B water tariff and pipe levy. The campaign, launched on the Dear Cape Town website on Friday August 31, has drawn more than 11 000 comments.

Last month, the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said it would not yet lower water restrictions despite late winter rainfall bringing dam levels to over 60%.

In March last year, the department officially declared the province a disaster area and restricted the water supply to Cape Town to slow dropping dam levels.

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson, said DWS had squeezed the city’s water allocation to achieve a 45% saving and it was local government’s responsibility to set restrictions and tariffs in the metro to meet that limit. “It is important for the City to step down gradually, as we cannot directly control the demand or revenue that will result at each level,” he said.

“This is principally why we motivated to the DWS, with the agreement of the other urban and agricultural users of our supply system, to provide interim limits prior to the end of the hydrological year (October), so that we can better manage the drawdown of dams, as well as our financial sustainability.

“Given that dam levels are at approximately 68%, it was appropriate to step down to Level 5 to provide some financial relief to customers,” said Mr Neilson.

Secretary of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance (GCTCA) Philip Bam, welcomed the lowering of tariffs, saying it showed the City was listening to the people but he believes more should be done.

“They have not gone far enough. They need to lower these tariffs even more so it can be affordable to people. One thing I don’t agree with is the pipe levy. It is nonsense. It’s an arbitrary imposition and adds to the financial hardships caused by the exorbitant municipal cost to the residents.

“We have learnt to adapt to the restrictions but to be penalised for saving water is unacceptable. It is unfortunate that the taxpayer has no recourse and the City government knows this and therefore abuses its authority.

“Already the outstanding bill of the City is so high, mainly because it is unaffordable to poor people who have no means of absorbing the exorbitant increases,” said Mr Bam.

He said the City held the power to lower the tariffs and the ultimate responsibility lay with the councillors who sign off on the tariffs.

Mandy Da Matta, chairwoman of the Table View Ratepayers’ Association, said given the province’s unpredictable rainfall, it was best to hold off on relaxing the water restrictions further.

“If the Level 5 usage patterns could be maintained until the dams are 80% full we should have a buffer for the next three to four years in our storage dams.

“The excessive tariffs should be revised, with immediate effect, as the residents are struggling to maintain basic needs financially and considering that the country is now officially in a recession.”

She said levies for water supply, based on property value and/or pipe size should either be done away with completely or charged at one rate for all water users such as R25 a household.

Ms Da Matta said Capetonians had shown the rest of the world how to save water in record time. By limiting citywide usage to under 550 million litres a day in under a year Capetonians had worked together and should not be “punished” with high tariffs.