Billions needed for water

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA Pictures.

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson has warned councillors that sacrifices will have to be made to cover the “enormous cost” of the City of Cape Town’s future water plan.

At the monthly Sub-council 3 meeting in Goodwood on Thursday September 21, Mr Neilson said the cost implication of desalination plants, groundwater extraction and re-usage of water “are quite stupendous”.

These are some of the emergency measures announced by mayor Patricia de Lille in mid-August to add 500 million litres a day to water resources. They are expected to cost upwards of R3.3 billion.

Mr Neilson said tenders were out now for some of the work and should be in place by March next year.

The mayor said the plan was for desalination plants, including one at Cape Town and Gordon’s Bay harbours and on barges at sea. But, warned Mr Neilson, the plan would require deep pockets.

“Financially, to go through these costs, a lot is going to be required. The large number of tenders we have to put out; some (other) tenders will have to go to the back of the queue,” he said.

“There’s going to be sacrifices,” he said, adding that other council programmes could be delayed to accommodate the water projects.

The first phase of implementing the water plan, Ms De Lille said, would cost about
R2 billion in the first financial year. And she warned that ratepayers would have to foot the bill.

“The operating expenses being upwards of R1.3 billion, it is inevitable that there will be a need for new water and rates tariffs to be developed based on new modelling over the coming months, which will need to be put to council for decision in May 2018 for implementation in July 2018,” she said last month.

At the sub-council meeting last week, ACDP councillor Demetri Qually asked Mr Neilson whether the water crisis would impact on major building projects in Cape Town.

Mr Neilson said the delay in projects referred to council projects, not private undertakings, saying: “The economy has to keep moving”.

He said the water-saving efforts by residents had “been amazing”.

And when one councillor raised the issue of water wastage in informal areas, Mr Neilson said it was, in fact, people in wealthy areas that wasted water.

“It’s behind the tall walls; you don’t know what’s going on there. But we know from metre readings what’s going on there,” he said.

The mayor, he said, would “bring some major proposals” to the October council meeting to give effect to the water plan.

When it was suggested that ratepayers be given an incentive to save water, Mr Neilson’s reply was: “There is a direct reward. You use less, you pay less. You use more, you will be penalised.”