Prof pays the price for using too much water

Professor Iqbal Parker has been battling for more than two years to get answers from the City of Cape Town about the installation of a water management device (WMD) at his home.

He alleges that the contractor lied and said he was replacing a faulty meter.

However, this occurred when the drought was at its worst. The short answer is he owes the money because he contravened the by-laws, notwithstanding the fact that the Dear Property Owner, a standard letter, asking him to apply for a quota increase, was not addressed to him by name.

The Lansdowne resident wrote to the mayor’s office on March 30 2018 about the R4 455.44 he owes for the installation of a water meter.

“The meter was installed on November 20 2017 by the contractor without prior consultation. My daughter arrived home while they were digging up the lawn and told her they are ‘replacing a faulty meter’.

“My daughter telephoned me and I spoke to the contractor who assured me that my meter was “faulty” and that they needed to replace it. I repeated the question that my daughter had asked them and was told that this was not a water management device (WMD) and they are replacing a faulty meter which is council property. So if they were installing council property on council land (the sidewalk) without consulting me and then lying to me, why should I pay for it?

“My request for an explanation has been ignored. To aggravate matters, I am now being charged interest on an amount that I do not owe. If I do not get a coherent response, I will pursue my legal options,” he said.

This after he didn’t get a “satisfactory” reply from K Williams in the customer care department.

“It’s noted customer was in contravention of water restrictions. Therefor as per the water by-law the City may install a WDM meter and set to 350lpd if no motivation in the form of a quota increase is provided by the customer.

“No quota increase was submitted by the customer therefore we are unable to arrange for the fee to be reversed (sic),” Mr Williams said.

Professor Parker confirmed he received a letter addressed to “Dear Property Owner” in July 2017 which “seemed to be a general circular to all property owners”.

“The unusually high consumption was due to a faulty washing machine and after fixing it my consumption was reduced. There was no sense in asking for a quota increase until I knew why the consumption was higher. Despite the reduced consumption after receipt of the circular, the meter was still installed without further notice. The notice refers to ‘action to discontinue or limit the water supply’ and even makes reference to payment of a reconnection fee if the supply had been cut. There is no reference to installing a WMD and there is absolutely no indication that the customer is to pay for any of the measures taken, apart from the reconnection fee.

“The meter was installed in November 2017 by the contractor without prior consultation or warning by either the City of Cape Town or the contractor. The contractor lied in two separate conversations by telling us that the existing meter was ‘faulty’ and that they needed to replace the meter claiming that it was not a WMD.

“Please explain the legality of demanding payment for something that the consumer did not request and which was installed under false pretences on council property,” Professor Parker said.

Needless to say he didn’t get any answers. Professor Parker then sent all the correspondence to councillor Mark Kleinschmidt on July 30 2019. “I hope you will deal with the matter appropriately as I refuse to pay for something that I did not ask for, is not on my property, was installed under false pretences and does not enhance the value of my property.”

Mr Kleinschmidt confirmed
Mr Williams’s response that Professor Parker contravened the water restrictions and according to the by-law the City was entitled to install a WMD.

“I cannot reverse the charge,” said Mr Kleinschmidt. “My role as councillor is oversight, and we expect our officials to resolve the issues expeditiously, after we’ve handed them over.”

We all know what “Expect” did. He planted a brick and expected a house to grow.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, confirmed the device was installed due to high water consumption at the height of the drought crisis.

“A warning letter was issued to the property saying they should reduce or submit an application with a motivation for an increased water allocation or the consumption would be limited but none was submitted. All contravention letters were addressed to property owners because of the large number of letters being printed at the time.

“A thorough analysis was done to determine if the customer was indeed contravening the restrictions before they were issued with a notice.

“The meter was not installed under false pretences but as part of the contravention of restriction measures after the customer failed to request a quota increase, or reduce consumption,” said Ms Limberg, who explained that the
R4 455.44 covers the cost of the WMD and installation.

In cases of apparent contraventions of water restrictions, the property owner is held liable for this cost, rather than ratepayers as a whole.

The charge for contravention was in line with the measures as published in the Government Gazette.

Ms Limberg said there was no discrepancy in consumption figures, Professor Parker was billed according to actual meter readings.

She could not comment on the fact that the contractor lied or that he misled Professor Parker because it happened so long ago.