Residents object to water levy proposal

Far south residents are steamed after mayor Patricia de Lille floated a proposal last week to impose a water levy.

They say they’ve been doing their bit to save water only to have the City penalise them for it.

Ms De Lille said the levy was being considered because residents’ water-saving efforts had eaten into the City’s revenue stream at a time when it needed to pay for a water-augmentation scheme that had already cost it R2.6 million.

The Fish Hoek Valley Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (FHVRRA) wasn’t impressed and fired off a written objection, saying residents had taken such extreme measures to save water that some were boasting about using only one kilolitre of municipal water a month for a household of two adults. But instead of giving them a medal, the City wanted to squeeze more money out of

The association said residents didn’t have a problem with the City going after water wasters with higher tariffs and water-management devices that squeezed supply.

However, it noted that the City had already removed an initial allocation of free water and because the sewerage charge was linked to water use, it too now started from zero, effectively amounting to a double charge.

“We are very concerned that a proposed water levy will somehow spill over into a sewerage levy as well, linked or not,” said the association.

“Is the City of Cape Town really so short-sighted to have already forgotten the massive opposition to the April 2017 proposed home user per day charge for electricity?”

The association said the City wanted to effectively add a surcharge to rates bills to cover a shortfall in revenue.

“Isn’t this really just poor financial planning?” the letter said.

The Fish Hoek Valley, it added, was home to many house-bound retirees and pensioners, some getting rebates, others falling just short of qualifying for them. There were also young families with small children in the valley, and they were squeezed by economic hardships and debt. All of them were worried by the prospect of greater financial hardship if the local currency was rated junk by Moody’s.

Fish Hoek resident Jason Sharples said he realised it would take money to solve the water crisis but that was why citizens paid tax “so the government can provide for the people”.

“Where is the money that should be in reserve from the taxes and rates we pay? We already live in one of the most expensive provinces in the country, and we are one of the most heavily taxed countries in the world. You can keep your special levy, thanks.”

Most Capetonians, he said, needed to hold on to the couple hundred rand they were saving on the water bill to survive the bleak economy.

“Why should we pay for the government’s short sightedness? There should have been solutions put in place years ago,” he said.

He said the dam levels had not just suddenly dropped, and if people had been doing their jobs properly, they would have foreseen the drought coming and acted on it. He said the special levy was just another case of “we haven’t done our jobs, yet again, and you, the public, must bail us out”.

Ms De Lille’s spokeswoman, Zara Nicholson, said no decision has been made on the water levy.

“The City will make an announcement when a way forward has been decided,” she said.

On Thursday November 23, during the launch of the City’s new weekly water dashboard to track supply and savings, Ms De Lille said that Day Zero was when dam levels reached 13.5%, and a week ago that date had been May 13, 2018, having been pushed out from March 2018 because of good water-saving efforts. At the time, consumption had been 582 million litres a day.

But residents had interpreted this as a sign of “some reprieve”, said Ms De Lille, and consumption had climbed to 602 million litres a day, shifting Day Zero closer by a week, to May 6 2018.