Water sale concerns in Pinelands

The water tanker was recently spotted offloading water into a household in Pinelands. The house pictured was not receiving the water.

With the province’s water crisis intensifying, a water tanker advertising the sale of water in Pinelands is leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many.

A company advertising water for filling pools, as well as cleaning roofs and walls, raised some questions from residents when the tanker was spotted delivering water to a Pinelands home recently.

A eagle-eyed Pinelands resident, who wished to remain anonymous, noticed the large commercial water truck pumping water into the household, questioning why this was allowed or what the quality of the water was.

“Considering that our city and surrounds is experiencing one of its worst droughts in a century with draconian water restrictions in force at present, I must admit to a sense of utter amazement and sadness that one can wantonly use precious dwindling water resources for what seems like non-essential usage,” the resident said, adding that he was later copied in an email with an advert advertising the water delivery service.

According to the resident, the advertisement raised questions such as is this commercial water supplier registered with any appropriate water authority to sell water commercially from a tanker truck in the suburbs? Is this sale of bulk water morally defensible in light of the City’s current Level 5 water restrictions? But, most importantly, where exactly was the water being sourced from? “Citizens are being exhorted, under threat of penalty, to adhere to stringent daily limits, yet, here we have a large 18 000 litre truck merrily dispensing a scarce life-giving commodity for frivolous and morally indefensible use,” the resident said.

Another resident who spotted the truck and then enquired about the service, Harry Goldsmith, found it “insensitive” for a company to be advertising the sale of water for pools “in times like these”.

“We have a water crisis on our hands. You leave your house, having done all the saving you can, only to find a water tanker outside advertising water for pools. I was quite amazed and only wanted to hear what these guys have to say,” he said.

Mr Goldsmith also questioned the quality of the water and how the City would allow private businesses to capitalise on such drastic times. “It’s really not pleasing to read on one end about water-saving methods and then see a truck with water for pools. In times like these, who is thinking about filling their pool?” Mr Goldsmith asked.

The severe drought continues and the City continues to roll out advance pressure management programmes, leak awareness programmes and ensuring that their emergency augmentation projects remain on track. The City’s water loss through leaks are far below the latest national average. The national average for water losses as per the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Strategic Overview of the Water Sector in South Africa 2017 puts the national average for water loss across municipalities at 37%. According to the South African Local Government Association, Cape Town currently stands on 14,7%.

Henk Meyer, a representative from the company selling water, claimed the water used to refill pools, as well as clean the roof and walls was “grey water that is still usable” from industries such as bottle plants.

He is well aware of the concerns and said these were lodged by “mostly people who do not understand what we do”. “The water we use would have gone to waste. We send test results with an enquiry before water is sold,” Mr Meyer said, confirming that the company does not sell borehole water.

Mr Meyer said he understood the current water crisis the metro currently finds themselves in and said: “It’s a very big crisis”. When asked if the business was an answer to the crisis, he said: “We are, yes and no, as much more is needed to be done.”

According to the City of Cape Town, the sale of alternative water requires a licence by the national Department of Water and Sanitation. “Before you buy water, make sure that the source of the water is verified, that it is non-municipally-supplied water and that the company is credible,” said Xanthea Limberg, the City’s Mayco member for water and services, informal settlements; and energy. “When in doubt, do your homework first. If it is found to be municipal water being used in contravention of the water restrictions, a fine of up to R10 000 could be levelled against you or jail time.”

The City requires prospective users to register boreholes with the City when they have received national government permission and to have fixed signage indicating that the water being used on a property is borehole water.

“The City does not support using borehole water for outdoor purposes. It should only be used to flush toilets. Borehole users must restrict their usage too. We cannot have an irresponsible approach to this. It is up to users, friends, neighbours and families to ensure that all water usage, even from boreholes, are done in a responsible manner,” Ms Limberg said.

She added that she was aware of reports suggesting bulk water was being sold, but stressed that there was no evidence for an investigation.

She said water usage has been reduced from 1.1 billion litres per day to below 600 million litres per day. “Together, we really have made an amazing effort. We can do this together. We need to reduce usage more and we are confident that with your help, we will do it.”