Car-wash owners defy City water restrictions

Informal car-wash owners on Botfontein Road, Kraaifontein, are adamant that hosing their clients’ cars instead of using buckets, as they are required to do under Level-3 water restrictions, saves water and time.

Despite the City visiting the car washes several times in recent months to get them to use buckets instead of hosepipes, car-wash owners like Phathuxolo Mzongwana say they aren’t convinced.

Mr Mzongwana started his business in 2009. He said ditching the hose for a bucket would hurt his already battling enterprise. wHe said he made about R500 a week, sometimes washing only two cars. If he didn’t use a hosepipe, he wouldn’t be able to compete with the other car washes that did. He feared losing clients, who were usually impatient.

He said the City had visited the car washes “at least twice” on Botfontein Road in early October.

Mr Zongwana said it took five 25-litre buckets of water to wash a small vehicle and more when they washed a taxi, compared to the approximately 10 litres they used hosing a car for “five minutes max”.

Another car-wash owner, Lebo Setona, agreed. He said City officials had visited them at lease twice to educate them about water restrictions and using buckets to save water. However it was more convenient for them to use a hose.

The City said it had received many complaints about the car washes on Botfontein Road. One of them was Twitter user @carlo_hill who blew the whistle on November 18 with this tweet: “3 illegal ‘carwash’ businesses in Botfontein Rd, Kraaifontein using hosepipes all day long. Water restrictions? @CityofCT (sic)”

Mayoral committee member for utility services Ernest Sonnenberg, said it wasn’t only car washes that wasted water. Hotels were also among the biggest water wasters.

His directorate was working hard to educate and regulate these sectors.

“Water conservation education is also a built-in theme of our general awareness programmes, whether restrictions are in place or not,” Mr Sonnenberg said.

Asked what the City’s rationale was for banning hosepipes, Mr Sonnenberg said: “Using a bucket is an effort and an inconvenience and as such is an excellent deterrent for abuse of water.”

He said water inspectors did daily inspections and people could be fined up to R1500 for flouting water restrictions.

“Repeat offenders could be summonsed and be liable for further prosecution including additional fines or up to five years imprisonment.”

Mr Sonnenberg said the City wouldn’t fine the informal car-wash owners in Botfontein Road, who are unemployed and use their free basic water allocation to wash the cars for a living. However, it would monitor their usage and cut their supply if it became excessive.

It was impossible for the City to monitor all businesses, Mr Sonnenberg said, so council relied on residents to report transgressions to the City’s call centre at 0860 103 089.

Meanwhile, the City had appointed consultants to develop a ratings system that would help businesses in various sectors, including the food and beverage industries, better manage their water usage.