STATEMENT BY THE EXECUTIVE DEPUTY MAYOR, IAN NEILSON
· Average water consumption for the past week is 510 million litres per day
· Dam levels have again improved significantly by 5% to 53,3% of storage capacity largely due to the good rainfall
· Any decision by the City of Cape Town to lower current water restrictions and thus the associated tariffs depends on the National Government relaxing restriction on water releases from the dams. The City believes that current conditions warrant consideration of a relaxation of restrictions to appropriate levels
· New water and sanitation tariffs have kicked in and the City reminds all water users that you pay less if you use less
· If you receive a significantly higher bill than usual, please check whether there is an underground leak on your property. Underground leaks are typically the underlying reason for accounts that are very much higher than usual; and this is especially more noticeable due to the Level 6 tariff increases this year as compared to the cost this time last year. We can assure our residents that there are no problems with our billing system
We remain encouraged by the steady increase in our dam levels midway through our winter rainfall season but we continue to ask our water savers to conserve water so that we give our dams a chance to recover.
I would like to address some of the popular water narratives that are currently in the public sphere.
Relaxation of water restrictions and associated tariffs
There is a misconception that the City is trying to make more money by keeping to the current restrictions and tariffs even though our water situation is improving. The City does not make a profit on the sale of water. Income is used only for water services. When the restrictions are lowered, more water is sold and so the tariffs are lowered to achieve the same total income.
As we have communicated, the City has asked the National Department of Water and Sanitation to have a risk-based discussion on when and how water restriction levels are to be managed. This request is based on a comprehensive overview of the water situation, water behaviour and prevailing economic conditions in Cape Town.
We have not proposed an abandonment of restrictions. We anticipate that some level of restrictions will need to remain even if the dams were to fill up completely. In fact, Cape Town has always had a measure of water restrictions in place as a proactive water management tool.
Cape Town is in a much improved position midway through our current winter season compared to where we were at by the end of winter last year. To give our consumers some hope and relief, we have communicated our intention to propose lower restrictions and the associated tariffs in the near future but that this decision is dependent on the national government assessment of the situation and its decision about the gazetted restrictions.
We await feedback but continue to caution that we must all carry on conserving water so that we can build a buffer for the summer ahead. We continue to use all channels at our disposal to drive the conservation message. We are also communicating that the new tariffs will make water wastage a costly affair. We are however confident that there has been a significant shift in behaviour and that most of our residents are thinking twice about what they use our valuable drinking water for.
New tariffs and water accounts
The City’s issues hundreds of thousands accounts per month. Although inaccurate billing is always regrettable, in fact only a very small percentage of accounts contain billing errors.
We have noticed reports of customers who have been receiving significantly higher accounts than what they may be used to. We will investigate any account query sent to us on its merits and advise the complainant(s) accordingly of the outcome. However, the reason for some significantly higher bills is likely due to underground leaks. These are the responsibility of private property owners to fix. However, customers may apply to the City for a rebate if there are mitigating circumstances. We have also enhanced our programme of fixing leaks for our low-income residents.
In light of the tariff increases, it is reasonable to assume that under the low tariffs of say a year ago, if one had a substantial underground leak, the cost for that water loss would be substantially lower than what one would pay for the same water loss under the Level 6 tariffs of this year.
A customer’s account may be the first warning that something could be amiss. If a customer notices that water consumption is repeatedly high despite his or her best efforts to conserve water, it may be due to an underground leak. Some underground leaks are easy to detect, while others require an expert leak detection professional or plumber. Customers are encouraged to read their own water meters at least weekly to monitor their consumption and pick up any problems that may arise, as soon as possible.
There are a smaller number of high bills which could be the result of a leak at the water meter. The City will also investigate the merits of these cases when they are brought to our attention.
In cases where water meters cannot be read due to reasons such as the inaccessibility of the meter, water usage is based on previous water meter readings. Since March 2018 the City has gone to even greater lengths to improve billing accuracy. Estimations are now based over three months to avoid a once-off spike in an account.