Will water tariffs be reduced?

Maghmood Allie, Plumstead

I believe the caller to a local radio talk show was most sincere in asking whether water tariffs will be reduced or restrictions relaxed now that dams have recovered to a reasonable level.

Are we really that naive to think this will happen? Do we really think City management will let this golden opportunity to fill its coffers even more pass it by?

National government was blamed for delaying providing funds to assist in managing the water crisis. Local City management was vociferous in this blame-game and would publicly state that that it was pleading with the national department, but to no avail.

With the water situation on a slight recovery, the national department, we understand, has input in relaxing restrictions and/or tariffs. Would the City be just as vociferous? Hmm, I think not.

Levies, surcharges and other colourful language to describe methods to relieve you and me of hard-earned income to supplement what many believe to be very healthy salary increases in an over-populated workforce.

But we are led to believe by the constant uttering of the relevant Mayco members that these are necessary for water-augmentation schemes and for the municipality to operate efficiently.

Blaming weather conditions rather than admitting that you handled a foreseeable drought situation very poorly reflects most sadly on City management. Making progress possible together? Really now? I’m not progressing, but it seems I’m making this possible for others.

One has to be really ignorant to believe the wonderful tales being spun by the relevant spin doctors in the Civic Centre.

Tales are being recited from prepared scripts, and when pertinent questions are posed, there is great difficulty in answering – if at all – since the script did not allow for this.

Besides, we are a City now known for much in-fighting and votes of no confidence with the only legacy left being the successful installation of water management devices. Not a legacy I would be proud of, but I suppose, if that’s your only chance at a legacy, then grab it.

I’m a proud resident of Cape Town, but this City has long not worked for me. Are we going to make progress possible together? I don’t know.

* Xanthea Limberg, the City’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, responds:

Here are the facts: The City does not make a profit on the sale of water.

Restriction levels are linked to dam levels, and restriction tariffs are linked to the volume of water used by Cape Town.

This means that, if the restriction level is reduced, individual water use is expected to increase as the tariff decreases, more water will be sold and this ensures that the City receives the same total income required to maintain and repair infrastructure.

As dam levels have now exceeded 60% the City, on a risk-based analysis, proposed to the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) that the water restriction levels should be conservatively and marginally relaxed.

This proposal was made during a meeting with the DWS and other users within the Western Cape Water Supply System on Friday August 24 to review the current status of water in the dam system.

The City’s proposal is that the urban restriction be relaxed from 45% to 40% and the agricultural restriction be relaxed from 60% to 50%.

These restriction levels were imposed by the DWS as part of the response to the severe drought in order to preserve the water in the dams supplying Cape Town, the Western Cape and the agricultural sector. This means, for instance, that Cape Town is required to reduce usage by 45% of what it would normally be allocated. This is also how the City’s target of reaching 450 million litres of water per day, or 50 litres per person per day, was calculated.

The City has been advocating a risk-based and conservative adjustment of restriction levels for some time now.

This proposal was supported by the other municipalities in the system. Agriculture representatives motivated for a greater relaxation for agriculture.

The DWS undertook to give a response by (tomorrow) Friday August 31.

As the water-supply situation has improved adequately, it is essential that an appropriate relaxation of restrictions takes place as soon as possible, not only so that economic activity can be improved, but also so that water tariffs can be relaxed from the current high levels to give the necessary tariff relief to households and businesses, while of course still preserving water to build a buffer against the summer months ahead.