As more Capetonians are considering alternative water sources to reduce consumption and keep Day Zero at bay, the City of Cape Town’s recent proposed amendments to the Water By-law angered residents who had just put up a fight to prevent paying a drought levy proposed by mayor, Patricia de Lille.
At midnight on Wednesday January 31, the last day for public comment, the City had received approximately 38 000 comments from the public which it said would be reviewed and considered for adjustments.
The by-law was amended in 2016 to ensure adequate monitoring of water – related services.
But, due to the current drought which has the City scrambling for solutions, the City proposed further amendments to the by-law.
Mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, Xanthea Limberg, said given the fact that a fair amount of misinformation about the by-law amendment had been shared on social media, the City would like to set the record straight and remind the public that the proposed amendments are necessary to put measures in place to ensure a water efficient society going forward.
Cape Town residents will not be forced to use a plumber who is registered with the City of Cape Town should the new water amendment by-law be passed, she said.
Ms Limberg said this was not the case as long as the plumber is qualified in terms of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The by-law proposes that plumbers who are qualified in terms of the NQF may register with the City and thus be placed on a list of registered and qualified plumbers from which residents can choose should they wish to do so.
With JoJo tanks being installed all over the city, residents understood that according to the amendment by-law, tanks and other storage devices needed plans but Ms Limberg said no approval from the City would be necessary for JoJo or any other kind of rainwater tanks installed as long as the tanks were used for irrigation or outdoor use and filled with rainwater, or any other form of alternative water.
However, if the tank was being plumbed into a building and there was a possibility of it connecting with the municipal drinking water supply, then this needed to be approved by the City.
She said this requirement had been in place since 2010, and was in the interest of ensuring no contamination of the drinking water system which could impact on human health and the environment.
Plans for alternative water systems, plumbed into a house or building should be submitted to the City as part of the building plans, as per the normal process.
Ms Limberg said the amended by-lawencouragedalternative water use and simply strived to put measures in place to protect the health and safety of Capetonians.
However, mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services, JP Smith, cautioned residents about the use of alternative water sources for drinking, saying the only safe source of drinking water remained the municipal water provided by the City’s reticulation system.
“Springs and water streams do not form part of the City’s water reticulation system and are not monitored and controlled for drinking water standards,” he said.
Until now, he added, only 10 springs, located in residential areas, had been sampled once a month but more sites were being added to the list.
However, the testing only included microbiological tests for disease-forming agents such as E coli and coliforms and City Health was erecting warning signs at all of the sites to highlight that there was no guarantee that the water was safe to drink.
Ms Limberg said the existing Water By-law required notification for retrofits of geysers and associated protective devices and it had just been rephrased for clarity in the amendment.
She said the notification may be followed by a random compliance inspection in order to save water and ensure the safety of residents hence the importance of using a qualified plumber.
Water management devices (WMD) seemed to be another sore point for residents but Ms Limberg said it had long been the City’s policy and practice to systematically replace all existing residential water meters with WMDs.
She explained that this was done in view of using newer technologies that improved the City’s ability to better manage limited water supplies and to help residents control the amount of water that entered their property.
Replacement of existing meters formed part of the City’s meter replacement programme and was paid for by the City except in cases where a WMD was installed in an effort to restrict excessive water usage or when one had been specifically requested by a resident whose existing meter was in good working order.
The Fish Hoek Valley Residents’ andRatepayers’Association (FHVRRA) analysed the amendment and in its comments to the City, said it was in support of the amendments but differed on three points.
The amendment states that the owner of a property must notify the City when a fixed water heater, heat pump or solar hot water panel is installed or changed.
However, the FHVRRA disagreed, saying it should be the responsibility of the plumber as the plumber should be required to be compliant and not the owner.
A further amendment states that a non-return valve must be installed as this prevents alternative water sources from being pumped into the municipal water reticulation system and contaminating it.
The FHVRRA agreed with this amendment but raised concern as to who would be responsible to foot the bill.
It suggested the City should pay as it is an unbudgeted item for residents and it is the City’s responsibility to provide potable water.
Their third concern was about the requirement that all water storage devices must be drained, cleaned and disinfected every five years.
They indicated that it seemed like an unnecessary expense if the storage device contained non-potable water and suggested the draft be changed to include the addition of the word “potable” to read: Potable water storage devices must be drained, cleaned and disinfected every five years.
Mr Smith added that it was a fact that up to 80% of water used in the home could be recycled for other purposes like flushing toilets, cleaning outside areas and even laundry, depending on its original use, and urged residents and businesses to think out of the box in order to stretch water supply.
Visit www.resource.capetown.gov.za for a comprehensive guide for the safe and responsible use of greywater and for more information on how to apply, install and use alternative water systems visit http://cct.gov.za/bC2nV