City a no-show while water bills flow over

A Bantry Bay resident wants to know how, in the middle of a drought, it can take more than eight months to get a water meter checked by the City Cape Town.

Uwe Koetter has received water bills amounting to more than R100 000 for the year. He doesn’t understand how that is possible: he says he is very very thrifty with municipal water and has four 5000-litre water tanks in his basement to prove it.

He suspects that either someone is trying to take him for a ride or there is a fault with his water meter.

But despite this, many requests to the City of Cape Town for a water meter test have gone unheard.

Lynn Muir, who has been handling Mr Koetter’s accounts, says the response by the City simply isn’t good enough, given the water crisis.

She said she had first queried the water bill in January, but Mr Koetter had only received a visit from an official last week Thursday after she had threatened to take the matter to the media.

“This has been going on for eight months not a couple of weeks. He is an elderly man living alone with an housekeeper,” said Ms Muir.

She said two private plumbers had also been on the property to check for any leaks, but had found none on the property.

She said the City should have sent someone out to test the meter months ago.

“If they were short-staffed they should have said. You deal with a different person every time and have to explain everything all over,” she said.

Ms Muir said the City’s service when dealing with the call-out requests could be better streamlined. She said she had posted on the City of Cape Town’s social media pages more than a month ago about the problem without getting any response.

“If there is a leak outside the property, then that is the council’s responsibility. There is a water crisis, and we are not the only ones dealing with this.”

Another resident who had to deal with a similar issue was Guillauma Rabie, who was billed R74 000 for water in 2016.

She said it had taken a year for the matter to be resolved and had been a frustrating process.

“They came and replaced my water meter in April and refunded me, but it was a long process.”

She had phoned the City several times about the matter. “You speak to a different person every time who doesn’t know what is going on.”

She said she had realised the billing was wrong because there had only been three to four people in the house at any given time and there was no pool or irrigation system.

“We are paying for this service and paying high rates in this area,” said Ms Rabie.

Suzette Little, the mayoral committee member for area north, said the matter was being looked into and the City would “expedite the meter test results”
for Mr Koetter’s property and “ensure that thecustomer is informed”.

She said the City had about 80 requests a month for meter tests. Usually, it took three to four weeks to respond to an application for one, but there was “limited capacity” to meet “normal turnaround times” under Level 5 water restrictions.

“We encourage residents to continually monitor their consumption and ensure that meters are accessible for meter reading,” Ms Little said.

Residents should always get a reference number to track progress on their service requests, she said.

“Residents need to stick to the requirement of 87 litres of water per person per day, and are encouraged to report anyone who is not abiding by the current Level 5 water restrictions.”

On Monday September 18, the City said dams were 37.5% full with 27.5% usable water left.

The City’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, Xanthea Limberg, said the City was aiming to reduce collective usage to 500 million litres a day while sourcing an additional emergency supply of 500 million litres a day to see the city through as much of the 2017/18 summer as possible. “The City reminds residents to reduce water flow on their property through adjusting their private stopcocks or water control taps,” she said.