October 11 2012
By Sibusiso Nkomo
Cape Town – For many residents of Makhaza and T3V5, the installation of new water meters called “amafudo” (tortoises) has been a curse and a blessing.
Although they have access to water, once their free allocation is used up the meter cuts off their water.
The City of Cape Town last year started to install amafudo for those who wanted them. Many residents cannot afford to pay their water bills and only access the free water supply.
Last week the SA Water Caucus (SAWC) met in Cape Town to discuss the problems.
The SAWC said municipalities were using punitive demand management measures. Western Cape coordinator Thabang Ngcozela said while the caucus recognised the importance of conserving water they disagreed with the measures.
Ngcozela said other water issues included water and electricity bills being linked, so that if a household was in arrears on their water account, they could not buy more electricity until they had paid up.
Communities in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have been angered by the installation of meters.
Makhaza residents said part of the problem was that the city would not fix leaks and this resulted in high debt levels.
Nokuzola Bulana said residents approached the city to try to get their debt scrapped but were unsuccessful.
For 61-year-old Busi Daniswa, Monday was a desperate day because her water had just been cut off.
She had to ask for water from her neighbours to finish washing her grandchildren’s clothes. “I only get two buckets of 20 litres each.”
But for Gideon Shubani in Sqekezana Street, the amafudo is a welcome device. “We welcomed it because it is cheaper than the older meters. I can control my usage.”
CPUT’s Centre for Water and Sanitation Research has been studying the regulation of water services and its civil society coordinator, Hameda Deedap, said the city had been reported to the national regulator.
“The rollout was found to violating people’s rights and we have facilitated engagement with communities on how to go about solving their water issues,” she said.
The city said the devices were “installed upon particular requests by home-owners and are programmed to provide an allocation of 350 litres of water per day”, not 40 litres as Daniswa claimed.
“Once this water has been used up, the device will limit the flow of the water via a trickle feed. Therefore, households will not be entirely cut off from water, but once the 350 litres has been used,” Sheeham Sims, the mayoral committee member for utility services, said. “This will prevent unnecessary wastage of water.”
On debt issues, Sims said the city’s Indigent Relief Policy made provision for debt to be written off under certain conditions.
Imagine that – 350L and then you receive “trickle feed”. Most households use up to 1 000L of water per day. It is a great way to force people to use less water, but there are other ways of using less water without having to change your lifestyle e.g. recycling of grey water for irrigation purposes.