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Expect a big change to your water bill thanks to SA’s new strict ‘free water’ policy

| Economic factors

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has confirmed a number of restrictions on South African water usage, which will include changes to how much South Africans pay for the water they use.

Speaking at a closed door media briefing in Kempton Park, Mokonyane noted that it would take three or more years for the country to recover from the intense drought which still firmly grips parts of the country.

She noted that there needed to be increased synergy between the department and local municipalities and highlighted a number of plans which would ensure South Africa’s water supply in the coming years.

One such change will be a new national restriction on the amount of free water every South African receives.

First introduced in 2000 as part of South Africa’s fundamental Constitutional rights, the legislation provides that the Water and Sanitation department must provide at least 6 cubic meters (kl) of water per month for free.

However, this has rarely been enforced, with many South Africans using as much as three times that amount, free of charge.

In addition, the rule has also been primarily municipality-focused, with most municipalities in turn providing free basic water to all or almost all of its inhabitants regardless of income or availability. 

The new change will now completely restrict every South African to the Constitutional-limit of 6 cubic meters with all excessive amounts being charged as per normal municipal water rates.


eThekwini (Durban) currently provides 9 cubic metres of free water to some residents in its municipality as of a 2014 report.  According to 2016/2017 rates eThekwini residents pay the following water rates:

Consumption up to 9 kl you will pay R16 per kiloliter;

Between 9 and 25 kl you will pay R18.97 per kiloliter for usage above 9kl;

Between 25 and 30 kl you will pay R25.26 per kiloliter for usage above 25kl;

Between 30 and 40 kl you will pay R38.97 per Kiloliter for usage above 30Kl;

More than 45 kl you will pay R42.86 per kiloliter;

Assuming you hit exactly the 9kl limit each month, the 3 kiloliters lost each month would equate to an additional R48 added to your bill.

Another possible option would be for municipalities to adjust their current rates to reflect the new limit and then increase cost per kl to reflect any money lost. In any event, big changes are coming.

Speaking to BusinessTech, Water and Sanitation department spokesperson Mlimandela Ndamase confirmed the changes, saying that the 6 free cubic metres currently provided was still currently in line in current Constitutional water rights.

He noted that South Africa’s water usage was far more per capita than those of its international and African neighbours and that drastic measures needed to be taken to bring the country back in line.

As the amounts provisioned apply per person, and differ per municipality, the new changes are not expected to greatly impact upper and middle-class households, although the rand difference could still be noticeable on a month-end statement.

Poorer South Africans are expected to be the hardest hit, however, as municipalities will have to actively restrict and/or collect from excessive use as it will them slapped with the added bill come month’s end.

The changes are expected to be implemented within the coming months depending on ongoing feedback from municipalities.

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