Water worry

A landlord says his 10 tenants at a Parow commune were left high and dry for three days after a City water-clamping device malfunctioned and shut off the water.

Monray May, who lives in Mitchell’s Plain, said he had to trek to his home in Lentegeur to haul 300 litres of water to the Robertson Street house in Parow so his tenants could bath and cook.

Mr May said the commune for students and young professionals housed 10 people in five rooms, so its water usage had exceeded the City’s water-rationing “blanket quota” of 20kl a month by between 5 and 9kl.

He said the City should have checked how many people stayed at the house before restricting the water supply.

The City installed the “water-management” device on his supply on Tuesday October 31. But the device’s default setting is 350 litres per household per day: a quota that assumes a family of four is living in the house, each using the 87 litre-a-day water allocation permitted under current water restrictions.

But with 10 people staying at Mr May’s property, the 350-litre limit was soon exceeded.

Mr May said the device should have reset after cutting the water supply on Wednesday November 1, but it had failed to do so.

“The meter was not working correctly and was only reset on Saturday November 4 due to the City’s 48-hour turn-around time when handing cases like these,” he said.

Mr May applied on Thursday November 2 to have the quota increased, but he said the City had only pushed it up by 30 litres, so by Sunday November 5 “the taps had run dry again”.

“I had to drive three times to my home in Lentegeur to get water for the basic ablution facilities to work and for drinking water. I waited an entire week for my quota to be increased.”

One of his tenants had decided to move out after the incident.”He is leaving at the end of the month, as he blames me for the water being cut at the property. I accept the responsibility, but I feel it’s unacceptable for the City to have dragged its heels on this issue,” he said.

“I know they opted to install these devices to curb water consumption due to the drought, but they need to look at the merits of each case.”

He said he knew of poor people in Mitchell’s Plain who had had the devices fitted at least two years ago and they had had “endless problems” with them.

Mr May said he had installed an “instant heating shower” and stopped using his 200 litre geyser at the Parow property.

Simthe Mbile, a sport management student at Tygerberg Northlink College, has been renting at the commune for 11 months. “I could not take a shower, cook or use the toilet. I used the rain water we collected to cook my food,” he said.

Mr May said the water management device had now been set at 850 litres a day for the ten people in the house

Ward 2 councillor Lenore van der Walt said households of more than four people could apply to have the quota raised.

“The City has allocated 87 litres of water per person each day. Due to Mr May’s special circumstances, I paid a lot of attention to his problem due to his tenants not having any water,” she said.

Ms Van der Walt said she had fielded many queries from residents who had had their water cut due to over-consumption.

“Each case is different but if there are more than four people in a household, I request them to apply for an increase in their water quota. The form is available from the City’s website.”

She said the City had installed more than 2 000 devices so far.

Mr May said the City needed a more “streamlined” approach to dealing with complaints like his.

“City officials came out six times to my property to sort out and reset the water management devices, which I think must have cost them a helluva lot of money.”

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, confirmed the City had received a sworn statement from Mr May about the 10 people staying at his Parow property.

“Residents are exhausting their allocation and an increase in allocation will be done based on the affidavit supplied,” she said.

Residents classified as “excessive use” customers, she said, would get a warning letter notifying them that a water management device, restricting water to 350 litres a day, would be installed at their property.

“The letter also advises customers to apply for additional allocation if need be in cases, where there are more than the average number of people on the property. These submissions will be considered with due cognisance of the current water restrictions,” she said.