South Africa: The hidden cost of water supply cuts

Many small towns in South Africa such as Grahamstown, are experiencing an increasing frequency of water supply outages.  As the article below outlines, water supply cuts cost businesses and home-owners money.  Water supply cuts can be mitigated by the installation of water tanks to store rainwater or municipal water or both – water tanks can save you money!
water supply outages grahamstown
Grahamstown’s water woes have long been the subject of heated debate and have recently featured as a national story on Carte Blanche that highlighted Makana Municipality’s infrastructural problems.

Water shortages pose enormous logistical and physical challenges to homes and institutions like schools and Rhodes University and water-dependent companies like Aquaculture Innovations.

Regular water outages have even cost some businesses serious money.

While the central business district is largely unaffected, other businesses, particularly B&Bs in elevated areas, seem to have borne the brunt of the recent water crisis.

Most businesses are being saved by contingency plans, including water tanks and boreholes.

”Guests are here to enjoy themselves and not on a boot camp,” said Annalise Bosch, owner of Belvedere B&B which was without water for 10 days. She said some of her guests were in disbelief that water outages could last as long as a week.

“We were without water for 12 days except for early in the morning most days, when we had low pressure until about 7.30am. After that, nothing for the rest of the day till the next morning,” said Jeannine Evans of the AppleBee Guest Cottage.

During restrictions it has been prohibited to use municipal water for watering gardens and lawns.

“It’s very difficult to keep the grounds attractive for our guests,” said owners Jo Fitzhenry and Mike Dacombe of Courtlands B&B in New Street.

The complained that Grahamstown residents are apathetic when it comes to water.

“Very few joined in with Dr Badat’s protest, nor do they bother to go to any gatherings to confront the municipality. We are getting what we deserve in some ways.”

The 11 Worcester-on-Durban Guest House experienced at least 30 days without water this year. Located in the West Hill area and close to St Andrew’s, guests are generally unaware of any water outages due to a back-up water tank.

Sally Price-Smith admits that outages do not affect her business directly “but this isbecause I have made an alternative plan. It does mean that we have to monitor storage levels and cut back on irrigation”.

She estimates that one guest could use a minimum of 200 litres of water (including laundry and washing). Price-Smith says she charges her guests extra due to the added cost of buying water.

“The water crisis is both good and bad for the business,” said Zama Tambo, who works at Oasis Water in Pepper Grove mall.

He explains the contradiction: when the town is out of water people buy Oasis’s water, but Makana also supplies Oasis Water with water. Oasis Water has a 5000 litre water storage tank which can last three to four days before running dry.

This has yet to happen.

Tambo says, “Business definitely improves when the water runs out.”

Another bottled water supplier says most people get water from the spring anyway.

Laundry businesses have also been affected. The Grahamstown Laundry & Dry Cleaners say that a noticeable drop in water pressure means that washing machines take longer to wash clothes and delay customers.

“But because we’ve been at a lower [elevation] there’s always been water,” said manager Navin Narshai.

Most restaurants and fast-food outlets such as KFC were not affected the recent outages.

Source: Grocott’s Mail (By Savvas Christodoulou)

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