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Komani-Karoo
Water tariffs: Not all towns applying the same criteria

AN old age home in Graaff-Reinet will pay up to five times as much for a kilolitre of water as one in Somerset East.

This was revealed when the management of Huis van de Graaff in Graaff-Reinet, lamenting a high water bill, explained that the home receives no concession from the high drought tariff imposed across the board by the Dr Beyers Naude Local Municipality (DBNLM).

The water tariff for consumers in the DBNLM is the same for businesses, domestic consumers and institutions, and works on a stepped tariff: the more water used, the higher the cost per kilolitre.

“The municipality does not take into consideration that an institution, like ourselves, Vuyani children’s home or the school hostels, houses many more people than an ordinary household, yet the higher rates come into effect at the same level of just 15kl per month,” explained Antoinette Steenkamp, chairperson of the board of Huis van de Graaff.

“Even if each person uses the target figure of only 50l a day, with 44 residents we will use at least 66kl a month, most of which will be charged at the highest rate.”

In addition to this, the drought tariff introduced in August last year by the DBNLM has doubled the cost of water used in excess of 15kl per month to almost R23 per kl.

Water in excess of 25kl per month is now charged at almost R27 per kl.

The Blue Crane Route Local Municipality (BCRLM), which includes Somerset East and Pearston, has a different approach, and its tariffs reflect that usage patterns differ. Here, institutions such as old age homes are charged less than R5 per kilolitre for the first 150kl used, and thereafter, R7.25 for every kilolitre.

The basic availability cost is only R35 more. Separate tariff structures are in place for domestic consumers and businesses, which both pay at a higher rate of over R14 for usage over 50kl.

The Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) sets the water tariffs for the local municipalities under its control, and the towns of Cradock and Komani are both in this area.

The tariffs for institutions in these towns also have “wider” blocks to accommodate different usage patterns.

Up to 200kl is charged at just over R12 per kilolitre, and even very high usage of over 2 500kl is still less than R15 per kilolitre. In towns in this municipality, domestic consumers and business consumers also pay different rates per kilolitre.

In practice, both Huis van de Graaff and Aalwynhof old age home in Aberdeen confirmed that they used at least 100l per person per day. “This puts an incredible strain on our finances,” said Diane Nel, chairperson of Aalwynhof.

For comparison purposes, the costs for a home with 40 residents using 100l per person per day (a total of 120kl per month), and including the basic availability, were considered.

In DBNLM, the cost for water would be R2 978.58, in CHDM only R1 606.40 and in BCRLM a mere R674.65.

“We strongly feel that we are not treated fairly by the municipality,” said Nel.

“If our residents were cared for in private homes, using the same amount of water per person, they would not even use enough to be charged the highest rate,” she added.

“We operate on a very tight budget, and need to save wherever we can,” agreed Steenkamp.

“Surely the municipality can see that with over 40 residents, we should be allowed more than just 15kl before being charged these exorbitant tariffs.”

In response to a query by the Komani-Karoo Express, Edwardine Abader, acting media liaison officer, explained that although exemptions can be granted for property rates for NPOs, the electricity, water and refuse tariffs as set in the adopted tariff structure must be paid.

She then added that if the NPO cannot afford the set tariffs, they may apply to council for a reduction in tariff.

This was seen as very good news by Steenkamp. “We will definitely apply for this reduction, and would appreciate the municipality’s help in rendering a more affordable service to the community,” she said.

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