(This article was first published on 13 January 2018 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper distributed in the Western Cape, South Africa.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Cape Town residents have until midnight on Monday to let city officials know what they think about proposed water tariffs amidst prevailing drought.

The city’s officials claim water tariffs are meant to raise cash for its water projects. This includes “additional infrastructure investment to enhance water security” and “drilling abstraction boreholes into the Table Mountain Group Aquifer to supply the Steenbras catchment area”.

“These projects are essential, but expensive,” said officials in a statement.

“We have proposed a drought charge on property rates in 2018, to help pay for these vital emergency water projects. If approved, the charge will be valid from 1 February 2018 until 30 June 2021.”

Residents have meanwhile registered their opposition and anger at the proposal on various platforms.

The website Dear Cape Town has run a petition against the water tariffs and has gained strong support.

Residents are angry at the city’s plan to charge extra for water usage based on property values. The city proposes to charge an additional 10% and 11% of monthly property rates.

Dear Cape Town’s petition states this proposal is a “slap in the face for us all” and “counter-productive”.

“The city has not shown adequate evidence of attempts to seek alternative revenue from sources other than the residents of Cape Town,” it states.

“Why not make use of revenue provided for the installation of restrictive water meters – currently rolling out 2000 per week at R4,732 each?”

Thousands of residents have also lashed out at city officials on Dear Cape Town.

“Many elderly people on low income live in properties which now have a high valuation but years ago at time of purchase they were more affordable. If a senior person has a valuable property now, it does not imply that the person has a large disposable income. Get real,” said one.

Another said: “No to the water levy. The powers to be should have done their job. The situation has been staring you in the face for the longest time. Reports and research shows that. Why must we bear the brunt now?”

Several organisations have meanwhile joined forces to establish the Interim Water Crisis Coalition. It will hold a public meeting on Monday evening at Community House activist’s centre in Salt River.

The coalition has “raised concerns over lack of real consultation with the masses especially as it has far reaching consequences”.

It also said the city’s water metres – proposed as another measure to curb water wasting – are often defective.