Water levy woes

Peter van Blerk, Murdoch Valley

It was a relief to hear someone else’s voice of dissatisfaction with the current DA council.

It is almost beyond belief that they are retaining the water levy which, we understood, was not only to discourage water wastage during the drought, but also to finance the exploration of other sources of water when the drought situation arises again.

We do know that a desalination plant was starting to be built somewhere along Baden Powell Drive, and there were rumours of another one but the tested seawater proved to be of such bad quality that it was impossible to attempt desalination.

Given the amount of sewage spillages that take place in many places, and Fish Hoek is just one of them, it’s hardly surprising that desalination of seawater is not going to prove to be a good alternative.

However, the levy continues, and although we have approached both our councillor, Simon Leill-Cock, and mayoral committee member for finance, Ian Neilson, and requested that they provide us with a website so that we could see how the levy was being spent on finding alternative water sources, neither provided us with one.

Added to our anger was the fact that during the original lockdown there were no actual readings taken at our commercial building, but the estimated readings were double the amount we normally pay, which was not feasible as all the shops and offices were closed and water consumption was at an all time low.

I know we were assured that when readings were taken the amounts would be reimbursed, but in these extremely tough times, it would be preferable for the consumer to have the money in his bank account earning interest as opposed to the council’s.

When the reversal of the estimated amounts were made on our accounts, there certainly was no provision for interest on the money the council had been pocketing.

It is really sad that so many ratepayers are completely dissatisfied with the DA as a political party. They seem to be failing on every count, and their veiled threat that we would be much worse off with another party ruling us has a somewhat hollow sound with the way they are treating us.

A realistic response from them would be very welcome, and not the sort of fob-off we get from Xanthea Limberg.

* Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, responds:

Although a temporary drought levy linked to property value was proposed at one point, this was rejected by the public and their representatives and was never implemented.

The drought subsequently revealed itself to be the worst on record, indicating that climate change was likely affecting our rainfall and that suppressed consumption was likely to be a pattern going forward.

As such, to stabilise revenue streams under suppressed consumption, the idea of a fixed charge for water and sanitation was revisited.

This time the charge was proposed to be permanent due to greater awareness of the threat posed by climate change, but instead of linking to property value, this was linked to potential water demand on the property (i.e. the diameter of the supply pipe) as this was considered a fairer option.

Please note this is not an additional charge but is calibrated to collect the revenue that was previously collected through consumptive tariffs but disappeared when residents reduced their consumption.

Stable revenue streams are needed to ensure effective operation and maintenance of the system so it can continue to serve us reliably now and for generations to come.

The cost of maintain-ing infrastructure does not go up or down in proportion to fluctuating water use. The consequences of failing to maintain infrastructure effectively due to insufficient revenue collection are clearly demonstrated in our country’s electricity sector.

The temporary desalination plants at Strandfontein and Monwabisi operated well. The Monwabisi temporary desalination plant will be decommissioned before the end of this month. The Strandfontein temporary desalination plant has already been decommissioned after its two-year contract period ended. Both plants produced safe, clean drinking water, which the City, in turn, bought from them.

The temporary desalination plants have allowed the City’s staff to acquire valuable knowledge through hands-on experience about the operation of this alternative water technology. The drought illustrated that we need to move away from sole reliance on surface water from dams. We are now confident that we are capable of successfully pursuing the large scale desalination project included in our water strategy: a roadmap towards greater resilience and water security in the face of shifting climate realities. Visit http://www.capetown.gov.za/general/cape-town-water-strategy for more information about this.

Estimations are an accepted mechanism in water billing systems worldwide. The City does, however, have options available for residents who do not want to receive estimated accounts. In addition, please note that the system for estimations was adjusted during the drought so that estimates were based on consumption patterns during the drought, rather than before it.

Residents who wish to avoid any estimated accounts are encouraged to make use of the City’s online e-services platform, where they may upload actual readings from their meter.

* Ian Neilson, mayoral committee member for finance:

Municipalities don’t operate as banks and the only legislation that allows municipalities to pay interest is the Municipal Property Rates Act (MPRA) in cases of a valuation only where a property valuation was reduced in a valuation objection or a valuation appeal and the property owner paid the higher valuation.