Cost of water to rise steeply

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 22 March 2011

South Africans must brace themselves for steep water tariff increases in the coming months, water experts have warned.

Water tariffs are too low, and are set go the same route as Eskom's astronomical increases

Though the exact increases are yet to be calculated, the impending increases would be similar to the astronomical electricity tariff hikes that hit South Africa early last year.

The proposed increases follow last month’s warning that South Africa will run out of water by 2020 if nothing is done to supplement water resources.

Speaking on the eve of World Water Week (March 20-26), Water Affairs acting director-general Trevor Balzer said South Africa’s cheap water resources have been used up and that government was looking at ways to address the problem.

“We are currently undertaking a study to establish the cost of water into the future. There is no doubt that the cost of water will be more expensive.”

Balzer said the government had plans to continue delivering free water to indigent households and that the study, which will be submitted to the cabinet before the end of the year, would reveal the new tariff structures.

Richard Holden, a business analyst at water parastatal Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, said the water tariffs municipalities charge for potable water is not enough for infrastructure maintenance and replacement.

The result, he said, was that funding constraints would lead to continuous infrastructure collapse, including pipes rusting and bursting.

“The infrastructure is old and needs to be replaced, but there is no money. Water tariffs are too low. We will go the same route as Eskom [by introducing huge tariff hikes],” said Holden.

He said the number of pipe bursts would increase and if not repaired and replaced, could result in high losses that would ultimately be detrimental to consumers.

A means of curbing one-off drastic increases, said Holden, would be for municipalities to implement water conservation campaigns and introduce gradual water price increases now.

If municipalities fail to implement this system, infrastructure would collapse completely and there will be “no money to fix the problem”.

“There is a crisis brewing. It is like the acid mine drainage, like Eskom, and like the toll roads. These issues are well known but it seems like we have to have a crisis in order to deal with them,” Holden said.

The system, he said, was not sustainable as the current tariffs do not take into account the full costs of operations, depreciation, maintenance and replacement.

Currently, most municipalities charge between R3.80 and R4.70 per kilolitre of water. But Holden believes this should be increased by between R3 and R4.

SA Institute of Civil Engineering water division chairman Dr Chris Herold said most water infrastructure in South Africa is well beyond its 50-year lifespan.

“We are approaching a 10-year backlog. It’s old and getting older.”

Department of Water Affairs spokesman Linda Page said bulk infrastructural requirements and maintenance backlogs across South Africa amount to R1.3-billion. According to a presentation made in parliament by the department in January, municipalities owe water boards a whopping R1.7-billion.

Herold said crumbling infrastructure manifests itself in the large amounts of water, which cities cannot account for.

The City of Johannesburg, he said, lost between 35% and 40% of its water last year as a result of crumbling infrastructure and general household wastage. In the 2009-2010 financial year, the City of Cape Town could not account for about 83.4million kilolitres of water.

By: Sipho Masondo
Source: Times Live

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