Guiding consumers since 2009

Water restrictions: What are your rights and penalties?

By Jessica Anne Wood

Water restrictions have been implemented in a number of areas around the country, including parts of Gauteng and the Western Cape. This impacts landlords too, as they are ultimately responsible for municipal bills.

Michelle Dickens, managing director of TPN, a credit bureau that specialises in property rentals, explained: “Property owners are always liable for the municipal charges as the municipality will not put the account in the tenant’s name. Therefore, it is imperative that landlords ensure that they are using a quality lease agreement to protect their interests.

“For example, TPN LeasePack specifically stipulates that the tenant must repay all amounts paid by the landlord in respect of charges levied by service providers; furthermore, should the landlord be fined or penalised because the tenant has breached any law or regulation, the landlord is entitled to recover any costs associated with the breach from the tenant.”

However, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg explained that while spot fines are being administered when violations are being witnessed by officials, general fines have not been issued. Bills have been adjusted, with consumers being charged more per kilolitre, so if they use more than the proposed amount, you water bill will be higher.

Penalties and fines

Sonnenberg highlighted that the city always has a 10% water saving initiative in place due to the general scarcity of water in the region. During level two water restrictions, a 20% water saving is imposed.

 “There are no penalties for consumers who don’t make additional water savings. However, the price of water will be increasing – especially for large domestic consumers. This means that you will pay more for the same amount of water used. This is necessary in order to encourage water savings. Due to the city’s increasing block tariff for domestic consumers, this will have very little effect on small consumers and water efficient households. On the other hand, large domestic consumers will pay a significantly higher marginal price for water,” said Sonnenberg.

City of Cape Town water restrictions

There are currently restrictions on a number of activities, such as watering your garden. If you make use of a greywater system (i.e. water from your bath, shower, basins etc.) to water your garden, you are required to have clear signage indicating this.

“You can use bath water to water your garden any time as bath water cannot be stored for a period of time without causing a health nuisance. A visible signage saying you are using non-potable water for watering your garden must be displayed. This must be clearly visible from a public thoroughfare,” revealed Sonnenberg.

Gardens can only be watered “on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for a maximum of one hour per premises either before 09:00 or after 16:00. This includes watering with buckets or automated sprinkler systems.”

“No watering will be permitted within 24 hours of rainfall that provides adequate saturation. Facilities/customers making use of boreholes or other sources are not exempt from this,” added Sonnenberg.

Additional restrictions laid out by the City of Cape Town include:

  • Washing of vehicles (including recreational vehicles and watercraft) is only allowed with hosepipes fitted with automatic self-closing devices, or with waterless products. 
  • No washing or hosing down of hard-surfaced or paved areas with drinking water from a tap is allowed. 
  • Residents are encouraged to replace all taps, showerheads and other plumbing components with water efficient parts or technologies.

Tenants and landlords

Once a contract has been signed, you cannot change the agreement unless both parties agree. It is therefore important to pre-empt things such as water shortages and restrictions and other factors that may have an impact on the municipal account, such as electricity tariff increases.

“The tenant is liable for water usage regardless of the lease agreement, but it is far better to avoid any disputes that may arise by making it part of the terms of your agreement,” noted Dickens.
If a tenant does not reduce water consumption during times of water restrictions, the landlord does not have any course of action as this rests with the municipality. However, Dickens emphasised that the landlord is entitled “to recover the cost of any fines imposed by the municipality from the tenant.”

Dickens added: “Landlords are ultimately responsible for the municipal accounts. The tenant is entitled to seeing a copy of a municipal bill which means that landlords must manage their accounts effectively on a monthly basis. By ensuring that a recently updated, quality lease agreement is signed and placing only quality tenants, a landlord can mitigate potential problems.”

The tariffs

“With Level 2 restrictions approved, customers will be charged from 1 January 2016 according to 20% reduction tariffs to encourage greater water-use efficiency. The tariff is designed to be revenue-neutral when applied to the 10% reduced consumption levels. In other words, if an average customer reduces their consumption by 10%, their bill should remain at a similar rand value. Indigent customers’ free allocation will not be affected. The free first six kilolitres of water and 4.2 kilolitres of sanitation a month for all residents will also not be affected,” explained the City of Cape Town.

The tables below provide the tariff charged in December 2015 (level 1) and the new tariff that was implemented from 1 January 2016 (level 2).

The 2015/16 domestic full tariffs (stand-alone houses) for water are as follows:  

 Steps Unit Level 1
(10% reduction)
Normal tariffs
Rands (incl VAT)
Level 2
(20% reduction)
During restrictions
Rands (incl VAT)
Step 1 (0 < 6 kl) Per kl R0 R0
Step 2 (>6 < 10,5 kl) Per kl R11,07 R11,66
Step 3 (>10,5 < 20 kl) Per kl R15,87 R18,24
Step 4 (>20 < 35 kl) Per kl R23,51 R29,75
Step 5 (>35 < 50 kl) Per kl R29,03 R45,40
Step 6 (>50 kl) Per kl R38,30 R85,09

The 2015/16 domestic full tariffs (stand-alone houses) for sanitation are as follows: 

 Steps** Unit Level 1
(10% reduction)
Normal tariffs
Rands (incl VAT)
Level 2
(20% reduction)
During restrictions
Rands (incl VAT)
Step 1 (0 < 4,2 kl) Per kl R0 R0
Step 2 (>4.2 < 7,35 kl) Per kl R10,44 R10,99
Step 3 (>7,35 < 14 kl) Per kl R18,53 R21,31
Step 4 (>14 < 24,5 kl) Per kl R20,26 R25,64
Step 5 (>24,5 < 35 kl) Per kl R21,27 R33,24

 ** Sanitation charged to a maximum of 35kl

From the tables above it is clear that the tariff increase in minor for the lower steps, however, as water consumption increases the difference between last year’s and this year’s tariff prices is larger.
For more information on the Cape Town water restrictions, click here.
For more tips on how you can save on water consumption, click here.

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