Water wastage allowed

Rupesh Daya, Rondebosch

I received a water bill this month from the City for R47 000. My usual water bill is around R400 to R500. So what does the City do? Nothing to save water. They instead send me a huge bill over a month after taking the meter reading. The meter was read on April 5 and the bill received on May 10. To the bill is attached a letter stating that I am a “high water user”. That’s it.

So I went to one of the council offices to resolve the issue. What answer do I get? “There is a leak on your property and you need to have it fixed”. This is the answer from the officials at the council office. No investigation.

Well I didn’t believe them and checked my meter reading and as it turned out, the council had put an incorrect reading into the system.

They read 250kl (250 thousand liters) more than what the reading should be. I am still to resolve the issue with the council. So what’s the big fuss? It’s not about the error. It’s about the don’t-care attitude that the City has adopted in these times of a severe water crisis.

What if I really had a water leak? As much as 250kl would be wasted, and by the time I received the bill, another 250kl would have been wasted. Does the City not see the need to attend to these cases urgently or as an emergency?

A sudden increase in water usage should raise a red flag, and an urgent task team should be sent out immediately to investigate. They have a rule that the owner is liable for detecting and fixing leaks. So that means they will bill the owner, and allow a potential leak to continue, thereby allowing water to be wasted, rather than react immediately in order to rectify the leak.

I would like to know what plans, if any, the City has to deal with such cases of sudden increase in water usage.

Mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy, Xanthea Limberg, responds:

An analysis of the system reflects that the high account was due to an incorrect reading. The reading was corrected via a control reading as per standard procedure. The City apologises for the error. Thankfully no water was wasted in this instance.

The City disagrees that there is a “don’t care” attitude to water leaks, but rather that there is a lack of awareness regarding the responsibilities of members of the public. As stated in the City’s Water By-law, the responsibility lies with residents for ensuring their plumbing is well-maintained.

The City is not permitted to maintain private infrastructure, but has been internationally recognised for efforts to reduce waste.

Our water conservation and water demand management strategy (WCWDM), was internationally recognised for its success at the 2015 C40 Cities Awards where it was acknowledged as the best in the world in terms of preparing the City for the possible challenges of climate change.

Water losses (which include losses through leaks and bursts, as well as water “lost” through meter tampering, general metering inaccuracies, and administrative errors) for the overall systems have been reduced from around 25% in 2009 to below 15% (14.69 %) according to latest data.

This is the effect of various interventions, including extensive water pipes replacements, as well as extensive pressure management of the waters supply system.

These interventions have also reduced the burst rate from 63.9 bursts per 100km of piping in the 2010/2011 financial year, to 31 bursts per 100km according to the latest statistics.

The standard period between the meter being read and sending the bill is about five days. However, customers should not have to rely on this to act as a warning system, as the bill is only sent once a month. Rather, they should closely monitor their water meter and plumbing to ensure waste from private infrastructure is minimised.