WITH the level of Midmar Dam reaching “a critical stage”, authorities have proposed hiking the price of water to curb wastage.
The news came as the mercury soared to 40°C in Pietermaritzburg recently, when Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder expressed concern about the level of Midmar, which was recorded at 50,06%.
He said concerns over the dam level and the prolonged drought would soon be translated to water restrictions “if the rains do not come”. It was revealed at a meeting of the Department of Water and Sanitation in Pietermaritzburg held recently that a proposed new pricing system would include the cost of refurbishing and building water infrastructure.
The proposed water price hike had not been finalised, but was aimed at making people more aware of the effects of drought in the country.
The department’s Sizani Moshidi said the revised pricing strategy would “promote water use efficiency”.
“This principle sets out that polluters must pay for the costs of their water discharge or pollution,” she said.
Moshidi encouraged conservation of water resources, saying the scarcity of water might lead to high prices for consumers.
“The price of water must reflect its scarcity. To ensure that water is conserved, people must prioritise and save water used for low-value purposes [washing their cars] so there is enough for alternative high-value purposes [drinking water],” she said.
Moshidi said the new strategy would provide for the capping of water use charges for those earning below a certain threshold.
“By doing this we would be able to achieve the key national objectives, such as food security, job creation and economic development.”
Moshidi also called on water services authorities to be transparent with billing and metering use, putting explanations for tariffs on their websites and providing proper detailed bills to customers.
“In most cases you find that municipalities only reflect the amount paid and the date the payment was made, [with] no explanation,” she said.
Moshidi said there was a need to adjust to higher charges over time to accommodate the cost of investing in supply capacity to meet rising demand, and to maintain and refurbish existing infrastructure.
She urged the public to make submissions on the water pricing strategy.
The consultation process will be held across the country until mid-February 2016.
“If you do not comment during these consultations, that means you are happy with what has been proposed,” she said.
While weather reports have suggested that the rains should arrive in late August 2016, Harichunder said restrictions would be implemented in late March if sustained rainy weather did not come before then.