Water Amendment By-Law

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By Zerlinda van der Merwe

Irrespective of where you live in South Africa, you are likely to have, at one time or another, encountered water restrictions and the possibility of a water shortage. In Cape Town, the Water Amendment By-Law, was promulgated on the 20th of July this year, and has quite an impact in community schemes.

As an introduction, let us first look at the purpose of the By-Law. As stated, it is to provide for the:

  • control and regulation of water services;
  • implementation of pre-payment meters, as well as private sub-meters;
  • registration and responsibilities of plumbers;
  • imposition of water restrictions; and
  • installation of alternative water systems.

In terms of the By-Law, the City of Cape Town may, at the cost of the owner of any property, install or require the installation of a volume controlling device to each section, business or dwelling unit, for use in determining the quantity of water supplied. Along with installing a water management device, the City of Cape Town may install a pre-payment meter, and where such a device or meter has been installed, a consumer may enter into an agreement with the City of Cape Town to set the drinking water supply to their premises to a predetermined daily volume.

It is interesting to note the distinction, in the By-Law, between an owner and a consumer. In sectional title schemes, the owner will be the owner of the land, namely the body corporate, whose functions are exercised by the trustees, whereas the consumers are the owners and occupiers of units within the scheme. The owner (or the body corporate) is responsible for ensuring compliance with the By-Law in respect of all matters relating to the water installation, and maintenance thereof. Whereas, the consumer (namely the owner or occupier of the unit) is responsible for compliance in respect of water wastage and abuse.

The By-Law defines “alternative water”, as water sourced from a supply other than municipal drinking water, including grey water, rainwater, treated effluent, surface water (sea water) and water from a borehole, wellpoint or spring. In this regard, in terms of the By-Law, new developments must install water conservation and demand management systems, or alternative water systems, for non-domestic purposes, and these must be submitted along with the building plans to the local authority for approval and record.

Furthermore, authorisation to use water from boreholes, wells and wellpoints must be sought from the Department of Water and Sanitation. In this regard, the By-Law provides that the consumer assumes full responsibility for all consequences of their use of water not from the City of Cape Town’s water supply system.

The owner of the property must notify the City of Cape Town when a fixed water heater, heat pump or solar hot water panels are installed or changed.

The By-Law provides that any member of the public must notify the City of Cape Town immediately on becoming aware of any emergency that requires immediate attention that may give rise to the wastage or pollution of water.

The By-Law specifically provides that a seller must, before transfer of a property, submit a certificate from an accredited plumber, certifying that the water installation conforms to the National Building Regulations, as well as the By-Law, that there are no defects, that the water meter registers, and that there is no discharge of storm water into the sewer system. A register of registered plumbers must be kept by the City of Cape Town, and it may cancel the registration of a registered plumber, and remove their name from the list, if they fail to comply with the By-Law, or fraudulently completes a certificate of compliance.

The By-Law provides that water supplied to a premises must pass through a meter, installed between the communication pipe and water installation. Except in the case of an automatic sprinkler fire installation, a fire installation in respect of which steps have been taken to detect unauthorised draw-off of water for purposes other than fire-fighting, or where water is consumed through an existing unmetered fire connection. However, in the case of the last option, the City of Cape Town may inform the owner of the property in writing of its intention to install a meter, at the City of Cape Town’s cost, and render an account for water consumed through that connection. This made me think of all the sectional title scheme conduct rules I’ve seen in the past, prohibiting the washing of cars and corridors with water supplied through the fire hose reel.

The schedule to the By-Law provides for water conservation measures, such as:

  1. No irrigation is allowed between 09h00 and 18h00, including from boreholes and wellpoints.
  2. Where a hosepipe is used to irrigate, a controlling device such as a sprayer or automatic self-closing device must be attached to the hose-end. A hosepipe used for washing vehicles must be fitted with an automatic self-closing device. Automated sprinkler systems should be able to be correctly positioned and be able to be adjusted to prevent water wastage.
  3. No person may, without prior written authority from the City of Cape Town, hose down a hard-surfaced or paved area using potable water, and it may further not be used to dampen building sand and other building material.
  4. Automatic top-up systems to supply swimming pools and garden ponds are not allowed, and all pools must be fitted with a cover to avoid evaporation when not in use.
  5. Commercial car wash industries must comply with industry best practice norms, regarding water usage per car washed.
  6. Wash basins and showers provided in public facilities must be fitted with demand type taps and valves.
  7. The maximum flow rate from any tap installed in a wash basin may not exceed 6 litres per minute, toilets are only allowed a maximum 6 litre cistern volume, and water from shower heads must flow out at no more than 7 litres per minute.
  8. Major water users (who are those using more than 10, 000 kilolitres per annum), excluding those comprising multiple dwelling units, must undertake an annual water audit.

If you have any queries relating to this article and topic, feel free to contact the writer, Zerlinda van der Merwe, via email at consulting@paddocks.co.za or telephonically on 021 686 3950, for a no-obligation quotation for a consultation.

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