The South African Local Government Association (Salga) has declined proposed water tariffs increase by water boards for 2020/21, with the exception of Rand Water’s case.

Times Live reported that nine water boards appeared before a joint portfolio committee of water and sanitation as well as co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) on 02 June to present their cases.

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While Rand Water told the committee meeting that it is proposing to raise water tariffs by 6.6%, Magalies Water proposed a 12% hike — the highest.

This had members of parliament (MPs) wondering what formula was used if water boards could propose different tariff increases for the same service.

Salga rejected all proposed water tariffs with the exception of Rand Water and lamented that the free-for-all approach was created by the lack of an independent water regulator.

MPs agreed on the establishment of an independent water regulator similar to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, is long overdue.

Currently there is no water regulator and this gives an opportunity for water boards to individually propose different increases which are approved by the minister of water and sanitation.

MPs unanimously agreed that this system is unsustainable and that an independent regulator should be instituted.

Their reaction was based on the fact that most of the proposed increases were above inflation with some MPs expressing concerns that the proposed increases were coming at a time when water was a fundamental right to all owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The eight water boards whose proposed tariff increases were thrown out by Salga are:

  • Amatola Water — 8.28%
  • Bloem Water — 9%
  • Lepelle Northern Water — 8.5%
  • Magalies Water — 12%
  • Mhlathuze Water — 9.37%
  • Overberg Water — 8%
  • Sedibeng Water — 7.5%
  • Umgeni Water — 9.6%

Revision of water tariffs

Municipalities serviced by these water boards include eThekwini and Mangaung metros; Amathole district municipality, Polokwane; Rustenburg, uMhlathuze; Tweewaterkloof; Midvaal and Matjhabeng local municipalities.

According to Times Live, five of these municipalities had in the 2019-20 financial year increased their water tariffs by a rate lower than that of their water board, causing them financial disaster.

Salga concluded: “Salga advocates for a revision of tariffs by water boards considering the further constraint in ability of municipalities to service their water accounts while guaranteeing the consistent supply of the service.

“Overall, Salga has taken the position to accept only one water board tariff submission, that of Rand Water.”