LET'S TALK What is the big deal about water meters?
Water meters have seemingly become the “talk of the town” in 2018. The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (“NMBM”) released a water restriction notice on 18 January 2018. The notice is in line with the NMBM: Water and Sanitation Services By-Law (2010).
The NMBM announced that all multi-dwelling precincts such as blocks of flats, townhouse complexes and retirement villages are required to install water meters to measure the water supplied to each individual unit, at the cost of the body controlling the relevant precinct. Furthermore, all new developments must have individual water meters installed.
Mr Joseph Tsatsire, the Director of Water and Sanitation, at the NMBM confirmed this position in a circular dated 9 February 2018. The circular was sent to all body corporates and group housing administrators.
The requirement for individual metering has been contained in the bylaw since its inception in 2010 but has only been enforced in 2018 due to the current water crisis. In terms of the notice, the NMBM has granted the sectional title owners until February 2020 to comply with the bylaw and install individual water meters.
Initially, the reaction was one of rejoice by all sectional title owners as they were under the impression that there would be a substantial reduction in levies. However, this may not be the case, and it would appear that the initial rejoice has turned into outcry.
The idea of only paying for the water which you have consumed is appealing to many owners. However, who will carry the financial burden to install the individual water meters? The average price for a water meter is R1500-00 excluding the installation cost. It is not only the meter cost that must be taken into account but also the cost to install new pipe systems as the current piping may not in every case be designed to accommodate individual meters.
Many Body Corporates have not budgeted for this additional expense and may need to raise a special levy. While ordinary levies may decrease as a result of the actual water consumption cost being allocated to individual owners it the reduction may be off set to some degree by a special levy which may have to be raised to compensate for the installation cost associated with the individual meters.
As an alternative to raising a special levy an affected Body Corporate might consider obtaining a loan in order to finance the installation of individual water meters. In this instance, no special levy would need to be raised and the monthly water cost saving of the Body Corporate could be off set against the instalments for the loan.
Owners will not be completely excluded from the decision making process as the decision must be passed by means of an ordinary resolution in a general meeting. The Body Corporate therefore needs to place this matter on the agenda of their upcoming general meetings and provide owners with the relevant options once they have obtained quotes.
However, we cannot dwell on the “cons” and must take all the “pros” into account too. Water will now be billed on an equitable basis as you will be billed for the amount that you have used. This will stop the cross subsidising that currently happens in certain instances. In addition, water leaks will be easily detected and rectified. This will have a positive impact on the body corporate and our water resources.