The City of Cape Town has advised residents to do their homework when buying water.
This comes after a shop in Ottery was closed down and fined last week when law enforcement confronted the owner for illegally selling municipal water.
For the past few weeks residents had been queuing in long lines at the Aura Water shop in Ottery Hyper Centre to buy water at R1 a litre but it turns out customers were buying purified tap water.
Xanthea Limberg the City’s Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy, says consumers need to find out the source of water sold by shops, whether it’s municipal supply or not and whether approval has been granted by the national government for such use. “Consumers must ensure that what they purchase is not unlawful. Demand proof of the source of the water and whether it has been legitimately extracted,” said Ms Limberg.
The sale of unmodified municipal water is unlawful in terms of our by-laws. It is, however, not unlawful to sell prepared water which is water that has been modified with added flavours, bubbles, or otherwise.
Ms Limberg said the City first received complaints about the retailer just more than a week ago. The allegation was that they are selling municipal water to the public. “The retailer has a business licence and a licence to sell water, but not municipal water. Since the City was first notified, the retailer has received five fines totalling R6 000 and has been closed twice,” she said.
Asked whether there have been other stores guilty of selling water illegally, Ms Limberg said: “There have been reports of numerous contraventions, although it is difficult to quantify, as some reports came as enquiries via email directly from the public or colleagues and others were received as general complaints via the customer service reporting lines.”
She said the City was currently seeking legal opinion on the issue although changes to the Water By-law are also in the process of being drafted. “Further information will be released on this in due course. The City is also conducting extensive enforcement operations this week to ensure compliance with current regulations,” said Ms Limberg.
“The City enforces by-laws but the supply of bottled water is a supplier-consumer issue and we cannot intervene here.
“In general, determining the lawfulness of the sale of water depends on the source of the water. If water is being taken from the municipal supply, it will constitute the resale of water which is prohibited in terms of Section 31 of the City’s Water By-law, 2010. They will then be liable to a fine or imprisonment in terms of Section 64 of the Water By-law, 2010,” she said.
She added, if a company was abstracting water from an alternative source like boreholes and or springs then a formal application must be sent to the national Department of Water and Sanitation but extracting from springs is not within the City’s mandate to oversee. “The City can only guarantee that the water that we provide via the municipal supply is of drinking-water quality. For all alternative sources of water, such as greywater or borehole water, or water from springs and other sources, the City advises residents to only use it for flushing toilets,” she said.
When Southern Mail visited the shop last week the shop was closed because it had run out of water. Several attempts to get in contact with the owner were also unsuccessful.
Residents can contact the City via email to firstname.lastname@example.org to report contraventions of the water restrictions (evidence should be provided to assist the City’s enforcement efforts), or they can send an SMS to 31373.