City cares about residents’ plight

Xanthea Limberg, Mayoral committee member for water and waste services

The letter “Outcry over new meter box” (Vukani, March 7) refers.

The City of Cape Town takes the plight of the poor very seriously, and provides free water to approximately 268000 households.

Formal properties where the occupants qualify for indigent benefits receive 350l/day for free, and can increase their water supply so long as they are willing and able to pay for additional water over and above the basic allocation. Residents of informal settlements do not pay for water.

Regarding allegations that the City has violated our own procedures when installing water management devices, we refute this. The City has not made any admission about violating its own procedures.

To clarify, permission from the resident to install a water management device (WMD) is only required when this is done as part of the indigent leaks programme. As part of this programme, residents can have their debt written off so long as they agree to installation of a WMD being installed at their property to prevent further accumulation of debt , which then gets paid off by the rest of the customer base. Public education and awareness form part of this programme.

Please also note that conventional water meters can be replaced with WMDs without consent from the account holder where this replacement is due to age or if the meter is faulty or otherwise forms part of the city’s meter replacement programme, or to encourage demand management (such as was done during the drought). Eventually every meter in the City will be supplied via a WMD when it gets too old or breaks. However, a daily water limit for the property will not be set unless the resident consents, or defaults on their account.

This is allowable in terms of the City’s water by-law which states as follows: The Director may install a Water Management Device at any premises as part of the water meter and its associated apparatus to (a) encourage water demand management; or (b) ensure implementation of an affordable approach in providing access to basic water services.

The City can confirm that all meters installed by the City of Cape Town are National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications-approved in terms of legal metrology and SANS 1529 standards. Meter batches received are sample tested for compliance.

All of the City’s meters have type approval from the NRCS and certificates are published on our website. Please also note that the same devices are installed in municipalities across the country.The assertion that infrastructure was not sufficiently upgraded to keep pace with an increasing population is misinformed on a number of levels. By means of extensive pipe maintenance and repair work, water-saving communication campaigns, efficient plumbing retrofits, and an effective billing system (to name a few interventions) the City of Cape Town’s water losses stand at 16% compared with the national average of 36%. 

The City’s reticulation infrastructure is the best in the country, but this had absolutely no bearing on the climate shock that affects the Western Cape. To use the author’s point about information representing an apex priority, it needs to be highlighted that, prior to and during the drought, weather data predicted average to above average levels of rainfall. We know all too well that this was not the case with three consecutive years of below average rainfall, with 2017 representing the lowest rainfall experienced in recorded history, it is now clear that previous hydrological modelling can no longer be relied upon. Climatologists have described the recent drought as a 1 in 590 year event, and the best pipes in the world cannot predict accurate climatic data or indeed produce water.

Finally, regarding the call for equal access to water.

The constitution of South Africa requires that we work towards every resident having access to sufficient water. In as much as it is important for everyone to have enough water in order for a municipal water service to be sustainable, all those with the means to do so need to make some financial contribution towards the operation of the service (maintenance programmes/treatment costs etc).