Robert Dempster
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The drought, Pietermaritzburg and the water crisis

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The drought, Pietermaritzburg and the water crisis

The various articles in "The Witness" regarding the 15% cut in water consumption being proposed for Pietermaritzburg have reference. While it does make sense to look at implementing water restrictions, I do have some issues with the proposed 15% restriction.

The first would be the mechanism that will be used to determine what exactly 15% means. Is it 15% of the amount that appeared on the last bill, or 15% of the monthly average of the amounts that appeared on the previous twelve (calendar year) bills? The latter is presumably the fairer of the two, and begs the question regarding whether the billing authority is even capable of computing that figure.

The second issue would be how this would be applied to water usage, or wastage, that is is not metered. Here I am referring to water usage, or wastage, that takes place at communal taps, and as a result of leaks in the water reticulation system. As everyone knows, water lost to leaks in the reticulation system exceeds 15%, and if that problem could be solved, then the need for metered paying consumers having to save 15% could be delayed for months, possibly indefinitely.

Finally, how will those metered users who do not comply with the restriction be dealt with? That question does of course suggest that all metered users of water are already paying for the water that they have been used to date and could thus be expected to also pay the fine.

I never submitted this blog as a letter to "The Witness" newspaper as originally intended on 21 January 2016. Since then the same paper has reported that the adopted solution would be to reduce the water pressure by 15% in order to achieve a saving of 15%. To date this decrease has not been noticed. If and when it does get implemented surely it will be a poor solution that in effect punishes those residents that world voluntarily reduce their consumption, dare I say in the face of a fine, to what ever level was required.

The restricted consumption approach worked in Pinetown during the drought of 1983/84 when household consumption was limited to 400 liters per day. I guess the authorities in Pietermaritzburg are admitting to this option being unachievable, as they already know that they are incapable of regulating the traffic, littering, etc., in Pietermaritzburg. So what chance would there be of them being able to regulate water consumption in terms of a regulation?

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