We reject the proposed water levy; we need a rational use of available water


We agree with the Outa (Organization Undoing Tax Abuse) position rejecting the proposed water levy. However the critique does not go far enough. At the heart of the water crisis in Cape Town is a drive by the various levels of government to create business opportunities for big capital. The amounts at stake will make the billions pilfered by the Guptas look like a garden picnic. Under the guise of water conferences the division of the spoils is being hammered out between the representatives of the big capitalists. Privatization is being promoted by Water Institutes that have been set up overnight. Yet there is enough water and the drought conditions are being used to bulldoze ‘get rich quick’ schemes for the elite.


Why is there a water 'crisis'? 

The world capitalist economy is stagnating. The only way they can save their profits is by taking back more and more of the gains the masses have won- they are now exploiting areas that used to be under state control, such as electricity, transport, social services and now, water. At the same time, the blatant greed of the big capitalists and banks is causing the total destruction of the environment, polluting the planet. The result has been destruction of 90% of the world fish stocks and dramatic climate change. It will take an international struggle of the working class and braoder masses, to end the destructive system of capitalism. Already the hoarding of food and now water, has become an international phenomenon. There is enough food and water but these are kept out of the hands of the masses. Water and food is dumped rather than being made available to the starving masses. International starvation and thirst is being deliberately orchestrated by the capitalists, all in the name of profits. Already in the EU only 1% of tap water is used for drinking. Most of drinking water is bottled. This is a setback for the international masses and needs to be countered. 


No to water wastage


Nationally, the bulk of water, some 60%, is used for irrigation. Yet the efforts of the City and Western Cape government have steered away from measures to encourage water saving in the agricultural sector. There are still huge inefficiencies in how water is used in agribusiness. Each year 30% of food produced has to be thrown away. This is a loss of over R60 bn per year. Big business rather creates a scarcity of food, so they can charge high prices. No matter that millions go to bed hungry. Thus almost 20% of all water used in the country is wasted through food hoarding by big capital. This has to end.


No to water bottling and privatization


There is so much water that water bottlers are mushrooming like daisies in Spring. There are even businesses opening using the waste water from the bottler operations. They are offering to sell loads of 16 000 litres at a time. The website www.waterfootprint.org estimates that 5.3 litres of water is used to make the container of a 500 ml bottle of water. They estimate that it takes 72 litres of water to produce a litre of Coke. So, supposedly, in the drought of the century, under the guise of saving water, more water is wasted to produce bottled water. The large retailers are overflowing with bottled water, yet for every 1 million litres of bottled water sold, at least 5 million litres of water is wasted. This is obscene. According to the SANBWA (SA National Bottled Water Association), the water that the retailers produce is tap water. This too is an outrage. The rational thing to do is to halt all water bottling operations so that all this spring and other appropriate water sources are diverted into the municipal system. This is especially important as there is no coherent plan for the recycling of the plastic water bottles. In the USA, only about 20% of water bottles is recycled. It is likely to be much lower here. There is also a wealth of literature on the harmful effects of the plastic leaching into the water, making it a health risk (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21050888/?i=5&from=/23561160/related ). The health risks are greater with carbonated/sparkling water as the leaching process is faster. The 2007 regulation on water bottling is deficient as there is no compulsion to report on concentrations of pesticide, mercury, lead, formaldehyde, Antimony, and other harmful substances.


Water from wine


Even further, it is estimated that it takes 872 litres of water to produce 1 litre of wine and 296 litres of water to produce 1 litre of beer. Put this in context of SA producing 1123 million litres of wine in 2015, this is more than 900 billion litres of water. Considering that about 30% of all food produced is wasted, the wine and beer industry could easily reduce production by 10%. This would immediately make available at least 90 bn litres of water, the equivalent of over 22 weeks of water for the City of Cape Town. Clearly, the reduction in wine and beer production could even be increased to 30% if need be. Less alcohol would mean fewer road deaths too.


The Reclaim Camissa project


There is also the heroic work of the Reclaim Camissa project. They have tried for many years to persuade the City and the Province to have the water from 36 springs and 4 rivers around Table Mountain to be rehabilitated and made available for common use. According to them, there are many millions of litres of water that is flowing into the sea every day. The government has delayed to make use of this water. Recently, only the Oranjezicht spring waters is being used for potable municipal water. The vast majority of the water from the Camissa springs still flows wasted into the sea. It appears that water scarcity is being exacerbated. Only the big capitalists who are lining up for business ventures, will benefit. If, as a minimum estimate, 20 million litres are wasted from the Camissa springs every day, this would amount to over 7 billion litres for the year, or at least 3 weeks supply to the City of Cape Town. If the spring waters at Franschhoek, Cederberg and other mountain ranges are included, the available water could be even more substantial. Ironically the SA Breweries uses millions of litres of Table Mountain water, which they get for free, to make beer, while the masses have to line up, under restrictions, like cattle, to get a few drops of spring water. Profit of the monopolies trump the needs of the masses. The City is on record in actively discouraging the masses from using spring water, yet the corporates and commercial farms have free use.


Fix the leaks; No to water restrictors


The City has identified over 50 000 high water users. Only at the end of winter did they take any measures to reduce this usage of over 20 000 litres per month for these households. The question is: How many of these are poor households that cannot afford to fix leaks? Surely a sizeable number of them. Only belatedly has the City indicated that ‘indigent’ households can apply for free plumbing services to fix leaks. This has not been widely publicized and most likely it is being implemented with a pre-condition of a water-restrictor device being installed. This is inhumane. Water is life. The City is using the crisis to install water-restrictors so that water can be privatised, facing huge hikes in tariffs just as in the case of electricity. The City has even purchased 200 000 water restrictors without a public consultation process. Assuming a cost of R2000 per device, this means that the City already spent R400  million. This money could have been used for water purification and fixing the numerous leaks in the system as well as various social water upgrading projects.


The impact of water restrictors

There has been a concerted effort by the City of Cape Town and other levels of government to impose water restrictors on the masses. The City has imposed clearing of debt to a pre-condition of installing water restrictors, only to go back on their word. Many have  water restrictors and still have debt. Now the excuse is supposed high water usage. In many cases the impoverished masses cannot afford to fix leaks and are now having water restrictors imposed on them. The result is that thousands have such a little water that there is not enough water to wash nor even clean the hands. The health of the masses is being seriously undermined by the widespread imposition of water restrictors. A mass outbreak of cholera is becoming more and more likely. The City doesn't care if more people die through diseases of poverty, as long as the opportunity for the capitalists to profiteer from water becomes a reality. This is depite the water usage in the working class areas being less than 2% of the total water usage in the City. 


Clear the canals that feed the dams


All levels of government must also take responsibility for allowing the canals feeding the Voelvlei dam to be blocked. Just in last year, the loss was over 7.5 billion litres of water, or at least 3 weeks of water for the City of Cape Town. The City cannot plead poverty as they have thousands of workers employed in the EPWP activities. Freeing up some of them would easily have cleared the canals. Are all the canals that feed all the dams open? Has this been independently audited?


Move away from flushing with potable water


Lastly, it is irrational that 10-20% of domestic potable water usage goes for flushing the toilet. There is technology available that recycles sewage back into the flush toilet system. (see eg www.gustoholdings.co.za). These can immediately be rolled out in all informal settlements as part of a plan to move these towards formal housing; they could also be made compulsory on new housing development and the  mass of high rise flats that are springing up all over Cape Town. At the same time, all new development should include a component for rainwater harvesting. A subsidy system should be put in place to enable a faster move towards rainwater harvesting. The extraction of water from air, through graphene technology could also be rolled out at all schools and clinics.Once again, these ideas have been long ago punted with the City of Cape Town, only to be ignored.


Concluding remarks


Access to sufficient water for all is a basic human right. It should not be a business opportunity for big capital. There is no basis for a new water levy. Further funds can be raised through reducing the councillors’ salaries to the minimum wage and through taxing the large companies and the large commercial farms that have been extracting spring water for private profit.. Let us form water committees in all areas to drive water saving and resistance to the privatization of the means of life. No to water restrictors. Reverse the privatization of water (the 2007 regulation) so that water is decommodified. Is it not time to expropriate the large retailers, place these under workers' control, so that the hoarding of water and food can end, so that the masses can eat and quench our thirst? We need a new workers’ party to end all exploitation.


Further references:


https://vimeo.com/39885478?ref=fb-share Reclaim Camissa on 50-50 in 2010. There is enough water










WIVP Workers International Vanguard Party/League 24 December 2017

ph/sms/WhatsApp +27 822020617

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.