Water has made the city nasty. Since 2017 when day zero was imminent, Cape Town City has turned very nasty over water. Here are listed some instances of how bad they really have been.
This was a year in the beautiful and placid Hout bay of the time. Plentiful rain had fallen, the dams were full and the beautiful Fynbos on the mountain ranges surrounding the valley was verdant. Not so fast. Poverty had come to the village. Corrupt politicians and government bureaucrats deprived the local fishing community of their permits to catch fish and turned to illegal means to make a living. Drugs like TIK (methamphetamine) was cheap until everything that could have been stolen from the addicts own home dried up. Crime was rife and the lure of a brass water meter on the street of each house was temptation turned into a reward of money for scrap. Water could be seen under huge pressure (water pressure in Hout Bay is 16 Bars in places) early each morning from almost every house in a single street. Like a river this would run down the road. So bad it was that the City ran out of water meters. They simply connected the supply pipes without meters directly to the houses. What happened from here on was the nasty bit. When realization hit the city and eventually it did sink into their dumb heads that in order to make the little water in the dams go further people would need to use far less water. In came restriction levels one after another. 2, 2A, 3,3A, 3B, 4, and 5. All of this happened in a matter of 7 months. Cape Town citizens responded. Some did not want to and they got punished. However the response overwhelmingly was compliancy. Nobody watered their gardens with municipal water any more, gathered up grey water for flushing toilets, and used whatever was left over to pour into thirsty pot plants. Radio stations called for tips from their listeners and the talk of the town was Water… Water Rhapsody installed more systems to conserve water than ever before. These were mostly Rainwater harvesting methods for household use as many of our clients already had our grey water systems to irrigate gardens. Besides which the precious greywater was mostly used for flushing by means of buckets. Pools were filled from rainwater tanks and pool backwash systems were in huge demand.
The city took more than two years to replace these stolen water meters and carried on charging the same volume of consumption as the prior to the new restrictions despite that the poor and naïve consumers of water without water meters without any means of proving their low usage carried on paying for water with bills of over R2000 per month despite their careful use of the precious resource. The city during the crisis months allowed 300 litres of water per day far less than they were charging for the estimated readings from previous years. I personally saw the readings (before and after) new meters were installed. The new amounts despite the massive rise in water rates amounted to not more than R36.00 per month. The city in a display of unique unfairness refused to countenance any pay back of what should have been in excess of R47 000.00.
Clients of Water Rhapsody using our Grand Opus Rainwater Harvesting Systems which supply rainwater from roofs to feed into water tanks, pump, and filter this water to whole households in an attempt to live normally and get-off-the-grid during the rainy season. Any harvested rain as well that falls in any of the months outside the rainy season is a bonus to them and should have been a bonus to the Cape Town City Council as well as all of these systems must have been a relief to their stressed water supply. Not a bit of it… they were grievously peeved if anyone should have no reading whatsoever on their water meters for three months. They automatically despatched an inspector who would open a tap somewhere on the premises and if the water meter did not operate this was enough for them to erroneously conclude that the water meter no longer worked. They were conscientiously blind to the fact that a demonstration of our system showed that the water in any tap was harvested, tanked and pumped rainwater. They simply went to report that the meter was faulty, and despite no water for the forthcoming months was demanded from the council were given the same short shrift treatment as those poor folk in Hout bay. Imagine their frustration at being told to pay huge estimated bills having spent a small fortune precisely to avoid this. Water Rhapsody Clients simply had to pay these bills without any recourse to and safety from the law as if they did not pay were threatened that their water would be cut off and would need to pay a re-connection fee.
Brass water meter-out with the old. Want to read the meter? Read only the white numbers as these are the kilolitres.
It gets worse can you believe? At some later date, the city workers would duly arrive to change the water meter. This was one of the new high tech models, designed more than just measure the volume of water. This device measures the water on a daily basis and is also an automatic cut off device set to close off the water once a daily allowance set by the city is reached. These though too can fail. Some of our clients refused to allow this new meter to persuade them to use municipal water and so the city would come every three months to put in yet another “broken” water meter.
Best advice I give to my clients is: use at least one unit (kilolitre) of water from the council every month and pay the R18 for that to avoid the compounding stupidity of those who adhere to the adage of “none so deaf as those who will not hear”
I have been doing what I do to get people to use less water and become mostly self-sufficient from the council supply. Each time there is a perception of a drought perceived or real, the volume of work goes up exponentially. This is really stressful when I am simply unable to get to help everyone in time. To add insult to injury, the Cape Town City in an effort to get everyone to use less water have a raft of ways to just that. These include water restrictions and water tariffs. In a meeting with the City in the period of the impending “Day Zero”, we were told by the city that we must “gear up”. Fine was my response, but questioned what would happen to restrictions once rains started to fall. I recall well that the answer was that they would never go below restrictions 3B. I accuse them of lying about that and have witnesses aplenty to vouch for that. By the end of March 2019 restrictions were already lowered below that mark. Good men have lost their jobs thanks to the brazen lies from the council officials.
In with the new – Water meter depicted with automatic shut off device giving the city the ability to shut off water if a daily allocation has been reached. This new water meter will pass on any unused water to the next day but will not pass on any carry over at the end of the month. The unused water is lost to the consumer.