MAY I SELL OR EVEN GIFT WATER TO SOMEONE ELSE?

By now the question of ‘may I sell my borehole water / river water / spring water or give it away for free, after all, it runs into the sea…?’ has come up many, many times. While most at least agree that the selling of water is illegal without a license, many still maintain that giving water away for free (and charging a generous fee for transport) is OK. But is it?

To find the answer – let us dissect the National Water Act of 1998. This is the guru on anything water related in SA.

WHAT DOES THE ACT SAY ON THE USE OF WATER?

In Part 1 the Act states: “In general a water use must be licensed unless it is [1.] listed in Schedule I, [2.] is an existing lawful use, [3.] is permissible under a general authorisation, or [4.] if a responsible authority waives the need for a licence.

Read moreMAY I SELL OR EVEN GIFT WATER TO SOMEONE ELSE?

YOUR WATER DEMAND METER (WDM)– A BLESSING OR AN EVIL?

WDM

The dreaded WMD (actually a WDM – Water Demand Management System) is here to stay. Many welcome it, others despise it. Whichever way we look at it, physically controlling high water usage is the only way forward. In fact, these devices have been in use since 2006 – initially to assist the indigent. But what do they look like and how do they work?WDM - aqualoc

WHAT IS A WDM?

Simplistically, a WDM is a valve that controls water flow. It allows a pre-set amount of water to flow, and then closes when said amount has been used. The valve opens again at a pre-set time to allow water to flow again -simple. Apart from controlling high water usage, it also prevents water losses due to leaks. In my opinion, its ability to prevent major water leaks is probably its best feature – the media often report on major water losses at private properties, without the occupants being aware of it. A WDM would have prevented that.

WHO SUPPLIES THE WDMs TO THE CITY?

There are currently two suppliers of WDMs – Aqualoc and Utility Systems. Both devices are installed by contracted installers. The main differences between the two are:

  • Aqualoc is a one-piece unit which replaces your current water meter. It is a water meter and WDM in one. It is equipped with Automatic Meter reading (AMR), but the City is not using that capability.
  • Utility Systems is an electronic valve with LCD panel that gets added to your current pulse water meter (a meter able to send a signal to an electronic measuring device). If you do not have a pulse meter (ie, you have the the old brass one), then a new pulse meter as well as a Utility Systems WDM will be installed. This system is also capable of doing AMR.

HOW DO THESE SYSTEMS WORK?

Regardless of the brand of the WDM, the contractor will set it at a predetermined amount of liters per day (prior to 1 Feb 2018, this was 350 liters per day – stricter water restrictions may result in this being lowered, but it had not been confirmed by the time of writing this article). This is based on 4 people per household. It will allow you to use those allocated liters a day, then shut off. It will reset again at 04:00 the next morning allowing for the next amount of allocated liters to be used that day. Unused daily allowance will roll over, but the system will reset at the end of the month. At 04:00 on the 1st of every month you will start again and lose any accumulated liters from the previous month. This is to prevent water hoarding, which is NOT the point. It is also important to note that the fact that you have an allocated number of liters per month, does NOT mean you MUST use it all. We should all be conscientious and responsible, and we must try to use less.

Larger households (more than 4 people) can apply for an increase in daily allowance – the forms are available on the City’s Website.

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY COMPLAINTS ABOUT THESE DEVICES?

  • Installation and maintenance issues: Soil and dirt that enters the system may cause the valve to jam. If the valve jams, the battery, which normally lasts 3 to 5, will work overtime in its efforts to allow the system to try and open/close the valve. The battery will then run flat in a matter of hours or days, causing the WDM to reset to factory settings. This may result in no water at all, until the system is flushed and reconfigured. Dirt can enter the system during installation or when there was a burst pipe in the area. Note, I am not going to speculate on the quality of the work performed by the contractors. That is not the purpose of this post.
  • Our own fault: While many of us will remain in denial, quite a lot of perceived problems are self-inflicted. Both devices can be accessed by laptop where usage stats can be retrieved. Some people use their full allocation and then deny it…. “I did NOT leave the door open… I did NOT use that much water….”, while the proof is there for all to see. If there is no leak, then you have used the water.

HOW CAN I ENSURE MY ALLOCATED WATER IS NOT WASTED?

  • Open taps are the main reason these devices are perceived to fail. Some people do not know a tap is open, and the allocated water is then wasted as soon as the valve opens at 04:00.  By the time the occupants wake up, all their water is gone….
  • Furthermore, Some geysers have a 200 or 300 liter capacity. Just to fill that will take almost 80% of your daily allowance. Some top loaders use 190 liters…. etc, etc. Enough said. Regarding geysers, be aware of how much cold water is wasted before the water gets hot. Consider a point of use electric or gas shower head or faucet to reduce water wastage.

HOW DO I READ MY NEW WDM?

WDM - how to read the meter

  • The Utility Systems one is easy to read. You still have your water meter that will record total water usage. The Utility Systems WDM’s LCD screen will tell you how much of your allowance is left.
  • The Aqualoc does not indicate daily usage. It only indicates total usage, as many water meters do. It uses analogue dials for this purpose. This system also uses a ‘wet’ reading pane. This means there is water inside the reading pane. This is normal. If the water turns green and you cannot read the meter, open a tap ever so slightly to allow water flow. This should clear the reading pane.WDM - reading the digital meter

WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE LIVING WITH MY WDM EASIER?

  • Frequently check for leaks – any leak on your side of the meter will reduce your daily allowance and cause the valve to close. Remember, not all leaks are visible. Some remain undetected for days and even weeks. Make a point to check for leaks at least once a week.
  • Familiarise yourself with the procedure to report WDM problems. Report the problem to COCT, get a reference number and then contact the supplier directly, if required, in an emergency. Both Aqualoc’s and Utility Systems’ support numbers are available on the internet. We may not like it, even deny it, but failure of electronic devices is a reality. If dirt enters the system and causes the device to fail, it is unfortunate, but NOT necessarily the fault of the device. Both devices are NRCS approved, so they are not of bad quality. The approval documents for both have been upload to Files on the FB Group.
  • I can hear you asking: “How do we prevent dirt from entering the system?”. This will be an issue to be discussed with COCT – a filter of some sort may have to be installed before the device. However, filters tend to clog, and will have to be maintained and cleaned. So, this is not an easy challenge to resolve.
  • Audit your personal water usage – know proactively how much you use. Manage your allocated amount carefully.

Now you know….

Disclaimer: WSWC is not affiliated with any of the two suppliers mentioned above. The info provided was posted in good faith and serves to inform members regarding the WDM devices.

Water Leak Rebate – How to Claim

water leak rebate

EEK, I HAVE A LEAK

water leak rebate - house leakingThe municipal bill has arrived in the post.  You open it leisurely, expecting to see a very low water account, after all, you have been saving water like crazy. WHAT…, how can this be? Forty kiloliters used for the month? It is impossible! You may have a leak… Consider claiming for a water leak rebate.

HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE A LEAK?

Do the quick leak test – ensure all taps are closed and no water is being used (no geysers filling up, washing machine being used, etc).  Observe the water meter. All digits and dials must be stationary. Nothing must move. If any dial or digit moves ever so slightly, you probably have a leak. Call a plumber to fix the leak as soon as possible, as you will be held liable for the water loss.

OK, IT IS A LEAK AND I LOST A LOT OF WATER, NOW WHAT?

The City’s bylaws allow for a water leak rebate on undetected leaks.  This means that a reduction will only be allowed for underground leaks, or ‘leaks that are not otherwise visible to the eye’, in the primary plumbing system of the property. Leaks on plumbing to convenience fixtures such as irrigation systems, automatic filling systems to ponds, pools, fountains, etc, where the disconnection of these systems from the primary plumbing installation would have prevented the water wastage in the first instance, are excluded.

Bottom line? – If the leak was not visible to the eye or underground, and originated from the primary plumbing system, then you may qualify for a water leak rebate.

WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS FOR A REBATE?

To qualify for a rebate, the following conditions will apply:

  • An owner is limited to one rebate claim in respect of each property that he or she owns. So, you cannot claim for a leak at a specific property more than once.
  • The cost of the wasted water will be shared equally between the City and the property owner, so the owner will always have to pay half.
  • The cost of the water will be calculated at the bulk water cost plus the estimated actual distribution cost. The City will therefore not make a profit on the wasted water.
  • The rebate will be calculated by comparing the average consumption over a corresponding period, to the increased consumption due to the leak. So, if your previous average consumption was 7KL per month, and the leak caused a consumption of 14KL, then the City will share the leak ‘induced’ wastage of 7KL with you.
  • The rebate period will extend over the last three ‘actual reading’ municipal bills. The City believes that you should have noted the excessive water use within three months and taken steps to fix the leak within this period. In the case of estimated bills, this period may be extended. What this means is that if it took you five months to realise you have a leak, they will only consider a rebate on the first three months.
  • To get a rebate, you will have to apply and pay for the installation of a water management device (WDM). This is to reduce the risk of further water losses from leaks.
  • An inspector of the City will come to verify that the leak has been fixed, before any rebate will be approved.

Bottom line? If you are willing to accept all the above conditions, then you can go ahead and apply for a rebate.

I’M HAPPY, HOW DO I APPLY FOR THE WATER LEAK REBATE?

A qualified plumber needs to repair the leak. This plumber must supply you with a plumbing certificate (also known as Plumbers’ Report) detailing the following:

  • Exact location of the leak on the property,
  • The nature of the leak; and
  • Steps taken to repair the leak.

Take this Certificate to your closest walk-in municipal office.  Inform them you want to apply for a rebate due to an undetected leak.  You are welcome to take your recent accounts with you, but they will do a verification on the system regardless.  If you qualify, there will be a plethora of forms to be completed, including the application for a WDM.

Do not expect immediate action, an inspector will visit your property in due time to verify the quality of the leak repair.  Only after he or she submitted their report (assuming the repair was done to his or her satisfaction), will the City finally approve the rebate.

SHOULD I DO ANYTHING ELSE? I AM A WATER SAVER AND DO NOT WANT TO GET A FINE…

This part is optional, but I did that when I had a leak and no fine was forthcoming…

I suggest you send an email to water@capetown.gov.za and inform them that you had a leak and are not a serial water waster. Attach the plumbing certificate as proof and remember to include your account number.  A short email will do – just inform them about the leak, ask them to make a note on your account and to provide you with a reference number.  This should be sufficient to prevent a fine.

Disclaimer – if you were a high water user before the leak, this email will not assist in preventing a possible fine.