The province’s largest dam Theewaterskloof has shot up to over 90% full. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
The province’s largest dam Theewaterskloof has shot up to over 90% full. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

City of Cape Town set to debate water tariffs

By Bulelwa Payi Time of article published Sep 13, 2020

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Cape Town - The City of Cape Town council says it will assess water tariffs after a meeting next month.

This comes as civic and political organisations press for them to be lowered. The meeting, which is set to take place at the end of next month, would help the city council make projections and take decisions on whether the water tariff could be adjusted, said mayoral committee member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg.

There has been an outcry from civic and political organisations about tariffs as dam levels have reached 96%.

“It is immoral to punish ratepayers at a time they can least afford it by continuing to charge what are in effect drought surcharges, when our dams are all full,” charged the Good party’s secretary-general Brett Herron.

Civic activist group Stop Coct called on the city council to abandon its “inflexible stance” on the tariffs and to lower them as there was no drought crisis. But Limberg said the council kept tariff increases low at 4.5% for water and sanitation; 3.5% for refuse removal and 4.8% for electricity.

Stop Coct and Good argue that even if the increase in current tariffs were regarded by the city council as among the lowest in the country, they were calculated on previous amounts which were “high and punitive” to discourage high water consumption.

In addition, the council had introduced a fixed pipe levy in 2018 as a mitigation measure for lost water revenue due to the drought.

“You can’t keep both. The city has made an over-recovery. Residents cannot be a DA cash cow to fund a bloated administration with high management costs,” Herron said.

Rating agency Moody’s noted in its report last year that the decline in water use as a result of “high” tariffs had not negatively affected the city’s overall operating performance but instead had increased revenue from water sales by 7%.

Stop Coct spokesperson Sandra Dickson noted that during the water-scarce period the city was quick to take away the 6 kilolitre free water allocation, raise water tariffs and implement a fixed pipe levy.

“It should also acknowledge the periods of water abundance and should be flexible to lower the water tariff accordingly,” she said.

The Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance supported the call to adjust the water tariff and questioned how “surplus revenue” from tariffs was used.

“The tariff should have been put in place for a limited period. But the problem with authorities is they get used to additional sources of revenue even where these are no longer required.

“They do not want to see (it) disappear,” treasurer Patrick Melly said.

The organisations said they were not advocating a “reckless” approach but tariffs should be commensurate with the available water resources.

Limberg said the meeting would also help determine whether the current level 1 restrictions would be adjusted, bearing in mind the likelihood of possible increased”consumption if such a decision was made.

She denied the city council made any profit from the water crisis.

“The R4,4bn in water sales revenue derived for the 2017/18 financial year was the total income for the service and does not equate to profit,” Limberg said. She said the city council sought to keep costs of service delivery as low as possible.

The fixed charge covered about 20% of the cost of operating and maintaining the supply system and did not rely on residents consuming water.

“The fixed/variable tariff model that the city uses is in place throughout South African municipalities as it significantly increases a water service provider’s resilience to periods

of drought, or suppressed consumption, which are predicted to become more common in our country,” Limberg said.

Weekend Argus

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