Cape Town - Strict bylaws in new council strategy

With just over a week until the most stringent water restrictions in the city's history, the city council has announced a 10-point plan aimed at changing Capetonians' water-use patterns for good.

A three-year water conservation plan unveiled by councillor Saleem Mowzer, the mayoral committee member responsible for trading services, could see new by-laws banning automatic urinals, watering of gardens during the day and forcing people to fill swimming pools with rain water.

Developers could be forced to install "dual-flush toilets"and small baths in new buildings; an army of newly trained plumbers could be unleashed on the city to fix leaks in private homes; and pre-paid water meters will be installed in three pilot areas.

Although the plan is still in its draft form, it has the backing of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo.

Mowzer said he would present the plan to the mayoral committee next month and, if approved, it would be tabled for discussion at a council meeting late next month or early in November.

The plan suggests, among other things banning all urinals that flush automatically.

Building owners would be given 30 days from the implementation date to convert to user-operated urinals, or face significant fines.

The plan also includes permanently banning garden-watering between 10am and 3pm. "If these restrictions can be successful during the summer months, which is the time where you water your garden the most, then why should we not make this a permanent measure? The council will also have to look into how they abide by this restriction," said Mowzer.

The plan would encourage swimming pool owners to use rain water to fill their pools. Although this measure would only be enforced if found to be applicable, a by-law would be considered to enforce it.

"This would be a valuable alternative because you are essentially capturing free water and this would help lower your account," said Mowzer.

The plan also proposes more "steps" in tariff model used by the council. At the moment, domestic consumers are penalised only for using water up to 61 kilolitres per month. After that, they pay a flat rate.

A new model under consideration would increase tariffs all the way up to 100Kl per month, in 10 steps.

Other measures in the plan include:

  • Banning the use of automatic sprinklers in summer.
  • Forcing developers to install small baths and showerheads, as well as low-flow taps, in new buildings.
  • Encouraging consumers to replace taps and showerheads with more economical equipment.
  • Making water bills more informative, to encourage saving.

Mowzer unveiled the plan yesterday during a trip to the Theewaterskloof Dam - the biggest supplying Cape Town - which is just 54% full.

Driving past the dam, which is lined in parts by a forest of dead trees which are normally submerged at this time of year, he said: "It is quite shocking to see this."

He said the new plan would not necessarily mean water restrictions would not be needed at times of crisis, but represented a strategic move to reduce water consumption permanently.

"The important message we are saying to the people of Cape Town is that we need to develop a long-term water conservation plan. All should give suggestions on this plan so that we can fine-tune it and start modifying our behaviour."

Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo said: "Let's work together and change our water consumption habits, not just while we have these restrictions in place but for the long term, because we respect the value of water and want to conserve supplies for today and future generations."

Article by: Anna Cox -