ILLEGAL: Boreholes are being used to refill private pools during a severe drought. Picture: Chris Collingridge
Cape Town - An environmental lawyer has expressed outrage over people who fill their swimming pools with borehole water in the midst of a severe drought.

Terry Winstanley, head of environmental law at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, said while the amount of water being extracted from boreholes cannot be policed, they are aware of reports of people filling their swimming pools with borehole water.

Anton Bredell, MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning, also warned yesterday that the drought would in all likelihood get worse until the next rainfall season.

Winstanley said it was outrageous that people were filling their swimming pools with borehole water in light of the drought.

“What happens is that people are paying for water tankers filled with borehole water which fill their pool.

“This is illegal. If we use ground water unwisely, it will run out. We cannot get this water back unless it rains. So the use of aquifers will likely be restricted by our ability to access the water at increasingly deeper levels, or it will just run out.

“The extreme would be to put water management devices on the pumps of boreholes as well. But it is very difficult to police how much water people use from boreholes,” she said.

Winstanley said that under the old Water Act of 1956, a distinction was made between public and private water.

She said there is a very different approach to water under the current National Water Act.

“Under the old water act, water from a borehole would ordinarily have been considered privately owned water and its use largely unrestricted.

“The new act stipulates that the state holds all water, regardless of its origin, in trust for the nation and allocates use rights. Under this act, water use for specified purposes is subject to certain thresholds, beyond which a licence must be obtained.

“Regulations need to be strictly enforced to prevent the further mismanagement of water in the region,” she said.

Dr Kevin Winter from UCT’s Future Water Institute said people who use more than 10 000 litres of borehole water a month, require a water licence. He also said it was not easy to control how much water people extract from their boreholes.

“If you do extract more than 10 000 litres a month, it needs to be registered. But people who see others using excessive amounts of water for gardening should report it.

“We can reduce water consumption by using grey water. This include re-using water. Water from your shower could, for example, be used for flushing your toilet,” he explained.

Bredell said: “We are calling on all stakeholders, including members of the public, to take all the steps they can to drive down water use at their homes and businesses.

“We are doing everything within our power to ensure no community runs dry over the coming months, but we must advise that matters will in all likelihood only get worse from here on out until our next rainfall season.”

Bredell also met Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane last week, when ongoing augmentation schemes were discussed.

Cape Argus