Measuring high water bill in soft drink cans

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, told Hans Smit that a leaking toilet at the back of his Table View house could be why his water usage spiked during the drought crisis.

“A tap dripping fast enough to fill a 340ml soft-drink can, will add about 14kl to a property’s water consumption for the month,” she said. She was reacting to the dispute Mr Smit has been having with the City of Cape Town since 2017.

Mr Smit said that since the water crisis was at its worst in May 2016 their household of two used an average of 20kl a month.

“It was impossible for us to use 81kl of water between July 5 and August 2 2017, which makes me think the readings for May 4 to June 2 and June 2 to July 4 (2017) are incorrect as well,” said Mr Smit, who called me last month in a bid to get help.

Mr Smit lodged a dispute over his water bill in 2017 and wanted a rebate. But there has been no resolution and he owes more than R50 000.

The US Marines have a word for Mr Smit’s experience and it begins with a C.

Mr Smit said, “We do not water the garden, fill the pool (which is empty), or wash cars. Since May 2016, because of the drought, we have used an average of 20kl a month.

“The meter numbers are not shown on your ‘actual readings’ and I can only assume that the amounts are estimated,” he told the City of Cape Town, “Yet, you want me to pay R52 580.20 for three amounts which is why I am applying for a rebate. As you want the full amount, non-negotiable, please revert with a solution,” wrote Mr Smit.

Customer relations told Mr Smit on September 6 2017 that the meter readers did an actual reading and also left him a note about the excessive water consumption for the past two months.

The previous readings taken by the meter reader were correct and in line, said customer relations, who explained how Mr Smit could check if his water meter was accurate and “to determine if there is (sic) any underground leaks (sic) of the property”.

Mr Smit could have his meter tested; if it was proved faulty, the amount would be adjusted, if not, he would have to pay for the test, the new meter and the amount outstanding.

On October 31, Mr Smit told the municipality he did not find any notice advising him of excessive water use. “In the 15 years we have been living here I’ve never seen anyone reading the water meter. Initially I had to clean the dial to read the meter.

When we did the self-test we noticed there was a leak and the report from the plumber confirmed they were small leaks so the amount of water you claim we used is incorrect. Please explain how our volumes of 20kl a month from July 2016 to June 2017 can increase from 81kl to 94kl the next month and to 146kl the following month. It is illogical,” said Mr Smit.

The plumber’s report said a full acoustic test showed there were no leaks on the pressurised pipework but the washers in the toilet at the back are leaking and need to be replaced as do those on the bath in the main house and on a garden tap, while the shower “needs grout work”.

Mr Smit sent the report to the City of Cape Town with a secondary report that showed there was nothing wrong with the water meter.

In response the call centre agent said they do not pay for leaks on private property and denied him the rebate he wanted.

Ms Limberg said the charges are based on actual readings and the applicable tariff.

“The City’s system reflects that a contravention notice was delivered in October 2017. Standard procedure is for the letter to be placed in the post box.

“Mr Smit would also have received monthly invoices that reflect the water consumption. “Our records show there was a consistent increase in consumption since May 2017, which spiked in October 2017.

“The actual readings are according to a calibrated water meter. Much like the odometer of a motor vehicle, the meter will register as the wheels are turning. The leaking washers in the toilet could have been the reason for the spike in consumption. To illustrate, a tap dripping fast enough to fill a 340ml soft-drink can, will in one minute add about 14kl to a property’s water consumption for the month,” Ms Limberg said. Tell that to the Marines.

Ms Limberg also advised Mr Smit to have his water meter tested.

However, Mr Smit claimed the meter had been replaced by a water management device (WMD) sometime in November 2017 without his knowledge and the R4 000 charge was added to his bill which he paid.

“I didn’t even know it had been installed until I went to check my readings, and there it was. Apart from the email correspondence, there has been no communication about the WMD and no one called me, despite what Ms Limberg said.”

Can a dripping tap add about 14kl to a property’s water consumption for the month?

Marc Mansour of Drainmen in Table View said 1kl = 1 000 litres, 14kl =14 000 litres and 1ml = 20 drops of water.

“A can of Coke carries 7 000 drops of water in a 350ml can. The calculation of 350ml cans of Coke to make 14kl would be about
40 000 cans of Coke. The calculations are based on the drip of a tap and not on a pin-hole leak from a high pressure pipeline in a house,” Mr Mansour said.