City of Cape Town eases controversial water tariffs

Over the past week, water consumption in the city declined from 535 million litres per day to 526 million litres per day. (Njeri Mwangi/Reuters)

Over the past week, water consumption in the city declined from 535 million litres per day to 526 million litres per day. (Njeri Mwangi/Reuters)

Cape Town deputy mayor Ian Neilson has announced that the city’s controversial water tariffs would be slightly relaxed from October 1 amid news that water restrictions would also be eased. Some protesters, however, say the tariff is still too high.

In areas across Cape Town, residents have grumbled about the increased water tariffs, which were imposed to fill the city’s coffers, after low water usage led to a cash flow shortfall for the municipality.

On Monday morning, Neilson said in a statement that water restrictions in the city would be relaxed so that each person is now allocated 70 litres per day instead of 50 litres. Officials are now aiming for the city to use 500 million litres per day, whereas its initial target was 450 million litres per day.

Neilson said dams were at a storage capacity of nearly 70%, which inspired officials to relax restrictions.

“The Western Cape Water Supply System’s dams are now at 68% capacity, a very significant improvement on the situation at the end of the previous winter, when they were at 38% capacity. This was during a drought so uncommon that it only has an estimated return period of 311 years,” Neilson said in a statement.

The increased water allowance means that the city will hope to slightly increase its earnings on water as citizens use more of it. As such, water tariffs — which were increased in what were described by some residents as “punitive” costs — have now been lowered.

A breakdown of the residential tariff savings per kilolitre (excluding VAT) is:0 – 6kL: down 26.6% from R28.90/kL to R21.19/k6 – 10.5kL: down 25% from R46/kL to R34.43/kL10 – 35 kL: down 56% from R120.27/kL to R52.39/kLMore than 35kL: down 70% from R1 000/kL to R300/kL

But while Capetonians might be saving slightly more, water tariff protest group Stop City Of Cape Town (Stop COCT) has said that the city is still raking in too much cash from its citizens.

“Financially, the city boasted in Parliament last week that it has an ‘improved’ cashflow, but their paying customers who made this possible are still being punished by this late and inadequate tariff reduction,” said Stop COCT founder Sandra Dickson.

“This can and will not be tolerated by the public. We strongly suggest that the City return to its roots and start to listen to the people. It is the only way the City can save itself from the looming disaster path it has set itself on,” she continued.

Despite the city’s new target of 500 million litres per day, Capetonians have steadily been using just over that amount in recent weeks under the current restrictions.

Over the past week, water consumption in the city declined from 535 million litres per day to 526 million litres per day.

Neilson has encouraged residents to continue saving water.

“Much work is planned over the next few years to augment the City’s water supply. Our water conservation awareness and demand management will continue as always,” Neilson said. 

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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