The latest amendments to the Water By-Law were promulgated on 20 July 2018, (CLICK HERE TO VIEW AMENDMENT) aimed at creating water sustainability, placing the accountability of water usage on the consumers themselves and allowing us to be proactive instead of reactive in our efforts to avoid another countdown to Day Zero.

In terms of Section 28 of the by-law, the City of Cape Town can install or require the installation of an isolating valve and either a water management device, prepaid meter or private sub meter on all branch pipes that supply water to each section, business or dwelling unit. The purpose of such being so as to determine the quantity of water supplied, the cost of such installation being for the property owner’s account.

The installation of a water management device allows the consumer to enter into an agreement with the City of Cape Town to set the drinking water supply to their premises to a predetermined daily volume. Where private sub meters have been installed and are read by meter reading companies then billed to the individual unit owners on their monthly levy/tenant statement, the by-law states that it is the responsibility of the owner or person in charge of the management of the premises to keep a record of the monthly water usage of each individual unit for a period of 24 months.

The installation of a prepaid meter allows the consumer to purchase water credits in the form of prepaid water tokens. These tokens enable the meter to allow a certain amount of water through before closing, thus allowing consumers to track their usage and load credit remotely. The installation of these prepaid meters allows for a more accurate reflection of the water usage per unit, which allows for leakages to be detected faster and decreases the possibility of incorrect billing.

The new By-Law states that water conservation and demand management systems, or alternative water systems are to be installed in all new developments, subject to pre-approval by the City. With regards to older blocks, the Director of Water and Sanitation has advised by way of notice in the provincial gazette that they have until October 2020 to comply with the by-law. In a sectional title scheme with a number of units, such an installation is possible, but not very practical and could be quite a costly undertaking.

The whole scheme would have to be converted and most schemes would require extensive rewiring and plumbing for the installation of separate meters. The City has not advised what the penalty would be for failing to comply with the October 2020 deadline or if there is a process to be followed in order to be exempt from complying, where a block cannot afford the financial implications of compliance with Section 28 of the by-law.

The process involving the installation of pre-paid meters proved to be relatively painless given the relatively small size of these blocks, ranging from 4 to 12 units. Where there were existing isolating valves at each unit the owner simply had to contract a private meter installation company, the water was shut off for the duration of the installation and thereafter residents could purchase prepaid tokens either directly from the meter company or from grocery store outlets like Checkers or Pick n Pay. Where each individual unit did not have an isolating valve a plumber was commissioned to install one and thereafter the meter installation company could install the prepaid meter.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the future rainfall patterns in the Western Cape it is imperative that we collectively remain water wise at all times. These amendments have been put into place to assist the City to better protect our scarce water resources so that we may be more resilient should a drought occur again. We will keep you updated on further developments and announcements from the City.

29 Jan 2020
Author Ilse Steyn