City of Cape Town deputy mayor Ian Neilson Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - After the City of Cape Town initially said it was dependent on the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to relax water restrictions before it could do the same, it had done so following a public outcry over unaffordable tariffs.

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson on Monday announced that Cape Town’s dam levels were nearing 70% capacity due to good rainfall at the beginning of winter and the conservation efforts of Capetonians.

Water restrictions and the associated tariffs are thus to be lowered in the interim to level 5 from October 1.

This will bring tariff relief of between 26.6% and 70% per kilolitre of water, depending on the usage and tariff category.

But the City has been criticised for implementing the largest reduction in tariffs for those using the most water. Those using between 0 and 6 kilolitres will see a tariff decrease of 26.6%, while those using more than 35kl will see a tariff decrease of 70%.

Neilson said the City’s water usage target would be increased from 50 litres to 70 litres per person a day.

“Once dam capacity again exceeded 50% at the beginning of July, the City called for a discussion with DWS around the relaxation of restrictions. 

"Since then, two meetings have been held with the other large users in the system, both urban and agricultural, and the DWS. 

"Agreement was reached among the users for a gradual reduction in the overall restrictions, including reducing the urban usage restriction from 45% to 40% of what it would normally be allocated.”

Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau, however, said restrictions, as gazetted, would remain in place until the provincial dam average reached 85%.

“There is also the normal hydrological cycle at the end of September which is the normal time when a review of the status quo is ordinarily done. There is no agreement reached, but the City can take decisions in so far as the City-imposed restrictions are concerned.”

Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy Xanthea Limberg said that based on the department calculation, the City had not managed to achieve a 45% saving, but was tracking just over 40%.

“It is apparent that most households, while making significant savings, have not managed to reduce to 50 litres per person per day. Households are thus requested to maintain their current use, which would translate into lower water bills.”

Sandra Dickson of the Stop COCT action group said further scrutiny found issue with the relief provided to higher water users.

“What has happened to saving water?” she asked. “If they lower tariffs, they stand to lose money.”

Dickson said the campaign would continue to call for reduced tariffs.

Agri Western Cape spokesperson Jeanne Boshoff said the agricultural body had requested that water restrictions for agriculture be relaxed in the interim and was now waiting to hear from the DWS.

Cape Times