14 September 2017

South Africa: Cape Town's Inadequate Drought Tariffs


The City of Cape Town's water demand management strategy restricts how much water poor households can use, while allowing those with swimming pools and water-guzzling gardens to imagine they live in a world of abundant water. This illusion has been allowed to last for far, far too long. And is, we believe, at the root of many of the difficulties we are currently facing. By JESSICA WILSON and TARYN PEREIRA.

In 2010 the City of Cape Town made a spectacularly bad decision about water tariffs. As required by law, Cape Town's domestic water is priced according to a stepped tariff. The more you use, the higher the price you have to pay per litre. In 2010 the city decided that those using vast amounts of water during a time of drought should pay much less than they had in the previous year. Despite annual increases of between 8 and 35% (depending on which year, and which step in the tariff curve), it was only in 2016/17 - seven years later - that households using more than 50kl of water per month would pay the same in nominal (not real) terms as they had in 2009/10. By comparison, households using a...

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