According to a report released by the water and sanitation directorate, the City has encountered several reports of water theft from residents by-passing their water meters.
“This can be attributed to higher water tariffs which contribute to higher levels of water theft. Our Leak Detection team is investigating and attending to water theft ” the report states.
Last year the City warned of water shortages, because of the drought and peddled the infamous “Day Zero” scenario, and introduced incremental water levels to discourage high usage and implemented punitive tariffs for high water guzzlers.
At the highest tariff rates, using more than 35000 litres of water a month will cost R768.64 per 1000 litres, which the City describes as punitive. According to the City’s Water and Sanitation Performance Monitoring Report in February, the percentage of water lost or not billed for was at 34.27% which is above the normal 20% band.
In addition revenue-generating consumption decreased because of the successful implementation of water-saving initiatives such as water restrictions, pressure management, retrofitting by installing water-efficient fittings, as well as various water conservation programmes,” the report states.
The City has seen a deterioration in non-revenue water (water that is lost for which the City can’t expect revenue) for the last couple of months and reports this figure to be 28.92% for April.
Activists have blamed the high tariffs for the theft of water.
“This is alarming and more proof that the City’s high water tariff structure is not sustainable. Instead of addressing this, the City is increasing water tariffs for the 0 – 6Kl step by another above inflation increase of almost 9%. The City’s response is to look into the matter,” said Sandra Dickson founder of STOP COCT.
Dickson said the City shouldn’t be surprised by the theft of water.
“STOP COCT receives many complaints of members and especially pensioners that they find it increasingly difficult to keep up paying their municipal bills. We are also told that pleas to the City falls on deaf ears,” she said.
Ghalema Easton spokesperson for Justice 4 Cape Town said: “These high water tariffs are the one’s our pensioners are sitting with and the reason why people have resorted to by-passing the water meter is because they don’t know what to do. This has to stop.”
Justice 4 Cape Town garnered support from various other community leadership forums around the city.
Last year they marched to the city with hundreds of senior citizens.
The ANC City council leader, Xolani Sotashe said that this would have been expected.
“You could understand this especially now when residents are feeling the pinch. The City must be more generous and these tariffs are ridiculous and it’s concerning that people are doing this and looking for other alternatives,” he said.
The City said: “It should be noted that non-revenue water, in volume terms, has remained relatively low. Cape Town’s non-revenue water is below 30%, which is lower than the national average of around 41%.