Basic free water under review

Water and moneyMiddle-class South Africans could start paying more for water by the middle of next year when the government plans to drop the free allocation of water (6kl) that each residential property receives.

This is part of the National Water Strategy review submitted to the cabinet by Water Affairs for a final decision yesterday.

The decision has not yet been made public, and department spokesman Sputnik Rantau said there would be a public participation process before the final review is legislated.

“It is part of the regulatory process that we have been involved with over the past year,” he said.

Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Monday that the department wants to equalise the cost of water across the country, and that large areas – such as Johannesburg – are underpaying.

“One of the things we are looking at there is to review what is called the free basic water,” she said.

“Should it be for everybody, we asked ourselves, and we found that the answer is ‘no’ because we are even providing Oppenheimer with free basic water.”

Molewa was responding to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s first review on South Africa’s natural environment.

The OECD recommended that the price of its natural resources, including water, be increased to stop wastage.

Molewa said part of the National Water Strategy review would be the establishment of a National Water Regulator to regulate and recommend price structures of water nationally. A new tariff strategy is also being set up.

“The tariff strategy will help us determine what the pricing is going to be like,” she said. “We are trying to bring equity. This policy, at the heart of it, is equity.”

Joburgers are expected to be especially hard hit as they are underpaying for water compared to other large metros, for example, Durban.

According to the OECD, the pricing structure of water in general in South Africa appears too low.

“The average price for a household in Cape Town is estimated to be an equivalent of US$0.95 (R9.50) per cubic metre for water and US$1.53 (R15.30) per cubic metre of water and waste water combined. This is much lower than many OECD countries. Denmark’s unit price is 10 times as high, Australia more than six times and France five times,” the OECD said.

“Water is underpriced in at least some areas, leading to under-investment, poor maintenance and high wastage rates. Other significant problems are non-payment and water losses in transmission.”


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