Several Water By-laws were amended by the the City of Cape Town in May, and locals have been asked to familiarise themselves with the new laws. The City says the changes were made to improve clarity for a more water-scarce future.

Stricter control of the water supply will affect new developments, toilet cisterns and even shower head flows. The City has taken a step to oversee that new properties install water conservation systems and they have to be approved before development goes ahead.

Level 6 water restrictions are still firmly in place and the new By-laws will have no effect on these.

Changes most relevant to the general public include:

– Landlords must now keep record of consumption for each residential unit in a multi-tenant complex/block of flats, and inform the City if contraventions of water restrictions are taking place
– New developments must install water conservation and demand management systems, or alternative water systems, and these must be approved by the City before development proceeds
The City’s oversight of plumbers has been strengthened by allowing the City to not only remove plumbers from its register but institute legal action if they are found to have transgressed the Water By-law
– Updates have been made to align the By-law with new legislation, standards and technical specifications.
– A prepayment meter is now an option, in addition to the WMD, as a Council water meter. While this technology is not yet at a stage of development for uptake by the City, having this item of legislation in the By-law allows the City to make use of it in the event that it becomes appropriate and necessary.
– Potable (drinking) water storage tanks must be impervious to sunlight to prevent the growth of bacteria
– No cross-connection must exist on private property between potable and non-potable water systems
– No irrigation of gardens is allowed between 9am and 6pm, including from boreholes and well-points. Previously no irrigation was allowed 10:00 and 16:00, and did not include borehole water. Watering gardens in the heat of the day can result in significant water lost to evaporation
Maximum capacity for toilet cisterns and shower head flow has been lowered. Toilets are now only allowed a maximum 6 litre cistern volume (down from 9 litres), and water from shower heads must flow out at no more than 7 litres per minute (down from 9.5 litres/minute)
– All pools must be fitted with a cover to avoid evaporation when not in use.

According to the City, residents should note that property owners are not required to comply with this by-law by altering a water installation or part thereof which was installed in conformity with a previous version of the by-law. Only when it comes time to replace toilets and showerheads due to age or malfunction must new parts that conform with the revised standards be fitted.

Further to this, all automatic flushing cisterns fitted to urinals must be replaced immediately with either manually operated systems or properly maintained non-manual apparatus which causes the flushing device to operate only after each use. This is especially common in public facilities.

Residents are also reminded that they are prohibited from negligently allowing water to run to waste on their property. In order to prevent this the City advises that residents perform regular leak checks.

Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, Xanthea Limberg, said the amendments have been made to strengthen the resilience of our built environment to the effects of water scarcity and ultimately protect the ability to safeguard public and environmental health.

“Compliance frameworks like By-laws are critical to a society’s ability to look after its residents and their interests. Such interventions form an important component of our broader efforts to live more sustainably. Given the current uncertainty around future rainfall patterns in the Western Cape, it is essential that the City’s residents are water-aware at all times, including once water restrictions are lifted, and that the City can act effectively to reduce and prevent waste. These amendments will assist the City to better protect our water resources so our City is more resilient when drought does strike,” she said.


Picture: Imani/Unsplash

Article written by

Nidha Narrandes

Nidha Narrandes is a food-obsessed travel addict with 21 years of journalism experience. Her motto - Travel. Eat. Repeat. She is happiest on a road to nowhere without a plan. A masterchef at home, she can't do without chilli - because chilli makes the world a tastier place.