Report of water theft

Dr Janet Hodgson, Somerset West

I am retired and have been living at Helderberg Village in Somerset West for seven years thanks to the generosity of a family member.

I recently travelled to the United Kingdom to promote the publication of my book by Sacristy Press in Durban, my twelfth book. (See scarcity.co.uk) I was away from April 22 to May 30, just over five weeks.

On my return I was confronted with a utilities bill for
R3 792.41.

Twenty-three kilolitres of water came to R2 278.66, it getting progressively more expensive. Sewage amounted to R1 019.09, although no one was resident during the entire time. VAT amounted to R494.66.

The date of the bill coincided almost exactly with my period of absence. My bill the previous month was R48, the highest it has ever been, my normal usage being one kilolitre. None of my neighbours saw anything suspicious but would not have done so during the night.Absences from the village have to be lodged with security here. Officially, they alone have this information.

I contacted our common properties department immediately.

They could find no leakages around the cottage and the meter read as on the bill. I never leave the brass taps on my two outside water connections.

Now I have been told that I should get tap locks as well. An independent investigator monitored my water usage over the weekend.

There is no problem with my meter and I am actually using less than my allowance of 50 litres a day.

I contacted the Cape Town Municipality and was told that it was not their problem but that of Helderberg Village, and that I must pay the bill, which I have done.

This has been a very stressful experience as I only have a small church pension. I also have a serious visual disability.

I am told that there have been at least two similar water thefts in the village in the past months during the owner’s absence, but these seem to have been hushed up.

We have never been warned to install locks on outside water taps. I wonder if anyone else in Somerset West has suffered similar water thefts.

I reported the matter at once to senior staff in the village and expected some sympathetic concern and an investigation.

I have since been told that there is no security breach reported during my absence and that the matter would not be investigated further. How is it that such a large amount of water was stolen during the exact period of my absence? Many people are buying water to fill their rain water tanks. What is the source of this water and what checks are being made?

My concern is that the public should be warned of this racket and that they should take suitable precautions to prevent water theft from water tanks or garden taps.