Water worries

Due to the extreme drought and heavily receding waterline, vines have emerged from underneath the Theewaterskloof Dam. Vineyards were flooded in 1975 when the government expropriated properties in the area to expand the dam.

Civic bodies in the greater Athlone area have slammed the City of Cape Town’s decision to hike water tariffs to force people to use less water.

They argue the punitive tariffs – which rise exponentially once a household goes above a new 6000 litre-a-month limit – are geared for households of four whereas many households on the Cape Flats have more than four people.

On Friday January 19, the city council scrapped proposals for a drought levy in favour of the punitive water tariffs, which will kick in, along with Level 6B water restrictions on Thursday February 1.

Level 6B restricts each Capetonian to just 50 litres of water a day.

A household bill will jump from R28.44 to R145.98 at the 6000-litre mark. A household using 50000 litres will pay thousands of rand more: R2888.81 to R20619.57.

In a sternly-worded statement last week, Mayor Patricia de Lille warned the city had “reached a point of no return” and that Day Zero was now “very likely” to happen because 60% of Capetonians were still “callously” using more than 87 litres a day.

Meanwhile, Day Zero has now jumped forward to Thursday April 12, and with fewer than 80 days to go before Cape Town becomes the first major city in the world to run out of water, authorities are bracing for a humanitarian crisis.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille met with the army, the police, National Disaster Management the State Security Agency, among others, at the Provincial Disaster Management Centre, at Tygerberg Hospital, on Monday to discuss contingency plans.

When Day Zero hits, the City will turn off the taps and Capetonians will have to go to 200 collection points – under armed guard – to get a 25-litre daily water ration.

Yusuf Cassiem, deputy chairman of the Bonteheuwel Ratepayers’ and Tenants Association (BRATA), said many in his community would battle to do that.

“Many of the residents of Bonteheuwel do not have transport, and how will they get to the water distribution points? There is no clarity on where these 200 points will be located. We are very unhappy about the way the City of Cape Town’s management of this crisis.

“There are often pipe bursts in Bonteheuwel, because of ailing infrastructure, but the service we receive is not up to standard. We are also upset about the water management devices being forced on to people,” Mr Cassiem said.

The Cape Town Water Crisis Coalition, which was formed with representatives from more than 64 organisations, urged people not to allow the installation of water management devices, as they say they are illegal.

Ashley Fataar, spokesperson for the coalition, said a section in the Water Act says water supply cannot be restricted. And he claimed the water management devices were not approved by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

“It has been five years since these devices have been approved by SABS, and it is supposed to be done annually.

“The device is also faulty, as it is supposed to last for five years, but after one year, the battery dies and it shuts off. It’s also not calibrated, as, at times, it cuts out before the total 350 litres per day have been used.

“With the kind of economic conditions currently, more than one family share a household, and it seems like only residents on the Cape Flats are being targeted for the water management devices. There are not a lot of these in the suburbs,” Mr Fataar said.

Posters are being shared on social media that urge people to refuse the installation and demand a court order.

Jonathan Carelse, from the Vanguard and Welcome Estate Ratepayers’ Association, said they would be objecting to the tariff hike.

He said the City was on the “back foot” with its assumption that there were four people per property.

“The actuarial information is skewed. The number of people in the Western Cape has grown exponentially, and the statistics used to forecast usage is incorrect and has been so for a number of years.”

The Athlone News contacted the City of Cape Town to ask for clarity on the legality of the water-management devices and its practice of forcing it on residents. However, it could not respond at the time of going to print

“Due to the work under way to deal with the emergency”, a spokesperson said, “it may take some time before the information has been approved and confirmed as accurate”.

Meanwhile, the Cape Town Water Crisis Coalition is planning a protest on Sunday January 28, outside the Cape Town Civic Centre, at 2.30pm. It urged all those unable to make it to town to picket in their neighbourhood’s main roads.