Residents march against water devices

Manenberg residents marching to the local rent office.

Manenberg residents marched to the local rent office last Wednesday to protest against the installation of more water management devices.

The group handed over a memorandum with their grievances to the office, including a list of “government failures” as well as infrastructure ideas.

The memorandum said that; the City of Cape Town was responsible for the management and maintenance of public resources and had failed to look after them; that the City was misusing the neighbourhood watches to police the spring water collection; the City must immediately stop the Day Zero water campaign; all water bills must be scrapped, installed water management devices must be removed and water by-laws must be scrapped.

It also stated that each road in Manenberg needed itsown plumber and that houses needed low-flushing systems as well as gutters and water tanks to harvest rainwater.

A community water summit would be held next month, the memorandum said, in which the following would be discussed: water purification, the impact of the water crisis on pupils and schools, the impact on sports and cultural gatherings, improving backyarder access to water, desalination, no limitation to water use and using water efficiently, and placing the springs and natural resources in the hands of the people.

Sherwood Park resident Aman Moos said his water management device had been installed in October last year.

He said that while the contractor had assured him it would be free of charge, he had been billed R4 900 the following month.

When the City had not responded to an email, he had gone to the Manenberg rental office where he had been told a charge was applicable.

“I have a house in Westridge and the same happened there. I also have constant leaks. This is inhumane to force people to accept these devices. One weekend my water was off for that whole weekend. It’s a scam, it is not free,” he said.

In response to the memorandum, deputy mayor Ian Neilson said: “With regard to the objections to water management devices cutting water supply to a property once their daily allocation has been used up, please note that the right of access to sufficient water in Section 27(2) of the constitution should be understood to mean that the state is not obliged to provide water freely (as this organisation is seemingly demanding), but rather is under an obligation to create mechanisms that enable people to have access to sufficient water. In South Africa, national government has set the minimum quantity at 25 litres per person per day.”

He said water management devices helped residents manage their water consumption. “In many cases, for example during water restrictions, this is a necessary intervention to protect access to water for all. An allocation of 10,5kl/month is provided free of charge to indigent residents, which is equal to 350 litres per household per day. This allocation satisfies the requirements of the constitution. Please note that devices are never set to limit consumption without residents’ knowledge.”

He also said allegations about faulty devices were being exaggerated. “Residents are assured that quality controls are in place. Water management devices used by the City of Cape Town are National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications-approved in terms of legal metrology and SANS 1529 standards, and meter batches are also sample tested for compliance with pressure and flow tests. Anomalies picked up during testing of meters are raised with the suppliers by the meter verification officers.

“With regard to allegations that the City has not looked after its infrastructure, these are baseless. The City has made large strides in the past decade to reduce water losses. Repair processes have been streamlined, and a focus on preventative maintenance has reduced the burst rate from 63,9 bursts per 100km of piping in the 2010/2011 financial year to currently below 30 bursts per 100km according to most recent figures.

“With a network that would stretch from here to Australia, it is not realistic to think that leaks could be completely eliminated. All water that is lost is regrettable, but the City has the results to show that this problem is being taken seriously.”

Mr Neilson further said: “The notion that the threat of Day Zero has been fabricated by the City as a way to accelerate the roll-out of water management devices or to inflate the cost of water is completely false. The water crisis is real. People can go to the dams and see the situation for themselves. They can also reference the communications from the national Department of Water and Sanitation on their greatly reduced allocations to the City and other bulk users who are supplied from the Berg/Riversonderend catchment system.

“The City’s allocation from the system was cut to 174 700 Megalitres for the year, which is equivalent to 479 Megalitres a day. Clearly, even with consumption at the massively reduced 600 Megalitres a day that the City achieved from June 2017 to January 2018, we were not going to survive without further cuts in consumption.

“It is highly irresponsible to be saying things like this without any compelling proof. If residents stop saving water due to these groups, it increases the risk that all of us will have to queue for water at some point and that the City’s economy would be significantly damaged.”