Water bill increases cause concern

ORIELLE BERRY

Many City ratepayers are expressing concern over their latest water bills for the months of December and January, but according to the City of Cape Town, the bills reflect a longer period and not necessarily the water restrictions which come with a pro-rata increase in water rates when residents’ water usage is extended.

A Northern News reader from Kraaifontein contacted us last week to complain about her latest water bill, which was three times higher than the previous month’s bill.

The ratepayer, who did not wish to be named, said her bill for the period November 11 to December 9 last year was just over R1 400 while her City rates bill for December 10 to January 18 came to more than R4 700.

The woman told Northern News there were five people living in the family household but there was no swimming pool and there was no “excessive use of water”.

She said she only did laundry once a week and “never watered outside”.

The bill included an amount of R369 for sewage for the period indicated last year; while the bill for the December/January included an amount of R786.

However, in a statement issued last week, the City said bills and new tariffs were being incorrectly interpreted.

Ratepayers will have received longer bills for January dated from about December 10 to about January 18 amounting to an average 40-day period; while the previous month’s bills for December were dated from about November 11 to about December 9, 2015, amounting to about 23 days, depending on the date of the meter reading.

Mayco member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, said even over an extended billing period, the average amount charged per kilolitre should remain the same, and not push consumers into a higher tariff category.

Mr Sonnenberg said if consumers were adhering to a request to cut their water consumption by 10 percent, the new tariffs would have a negligble effect on their monthly bill.

He added, “Reading all water meters throughout the city over the holiday season is challenging due to problems with access when residents are away and the city’s staff complement is reduced,” said Mr Sonnenberg.

He said the City tries to read meters every month with the standard period normally being close to 30 days.

He said residents’ water bills could also be higher with the hotter months of December and January in which the city did see an increased usage of water.

Mr Sonnenberg said with the drought “it is necessary to achieve a 10% reduction in our overall usage. In order to achieve this, all residents need to adhere to the Level 2 water restrictions … These tariffs are designed to be approximately revenue-neutral when applied to the 10% reduced consumption levels”.

Sanitation charges, said the City, would also be affected because, in terms of residential customers, these charges are calculated as being 70% of total water used on the property up to a maximum of 35 kl.

Northern News contacted the City’s toll free line given to address water usage queries, to check the level of service, citing a personal water bill.

The call was answered within less than one minute and the call centre operator said people with queries can do a self test to check if there is a leak or a problem with their meters.

“In December residents would have received a smaller bill and with the extended period the following bill in January would have been much bigger,” said the call centre operator.

To do a self test on the meter, if it is accessible, do a meter reading and thereafter do not open any taps or use water for the next hour.

“After an hour they can take a new reading and if there is a change there could be an underground leak which they can report,” said Mr Sonnenberg.

* Residents can call the toll free line 086 010 3089 or they can go to the link www.capetown.gov.za