'Water profiteers' tap into Cape panic
"Hello. How much do you charge for 10,000 litres of water and how soon can you deliver?"
With water rationing under way and dire warnings about "day zero" when taps run dry, this is the telephone conversation happening between residents and "water profiteers" in drought-stricken Cape Town.
Some of these transactions are illegal, says the Department of Water and Sanitation.
Some swimming pool owners are willing to pay R5600 or more per 10000 litres of water, trucked to their homes. Water restrictions, threats of prosecution and a sense of panic have some residents seeking alternative water supplies for gardening, swimming pools and flushing toilets.
Several adverts are doing the rounds offering bulk water delivery.
The Times contacted companies for water delivery quotes. One quoted R5600 for 10000 litres, sourced from a Winelands farm. A second offered to deliver 5000 litres for R3500 and a third quoted R4500 for 10000 litres of water.
Henk Meyer invested in a 7500 litre tank and a truck to collect run-off water from a bottling plant. He told Cape Talk radio station his construction business would die without water, which he also sells.
Mr Water Delivery advised clients that "due to high demand" they were running an extended service at the weekend.
Water and Sanitation Department spokesman Sputnik Ratau said the government was the custodian or trustee of water resources, including dams, rivers, lakes, pans, wetlands and groundwater.
"It is illegal to sell water. The only case in which water is sold legally is as bottled water," he said. "Use of water without an authorisation is a serious offence, which carries a minimum sentence of five years' imprisonment or a fine."
He said a person who filled a pool with municipal water could not sell it on to a neighbour.