A Paddocks Sectional Title Lifestyle Blog
By Dr Carryn Melissa Durham
March, 22nd is World Water Day! Low dam levels and droughts have been an issue for most of the provinces in South Africa over the past few years. Water is an essential, natural resource to life, and its conservation is fundamental to our survival.
In this article, I will focus on conserving water in sectional title schemes. In another article, I will pay special attention to how water consumption is measured, and how the costs are allocated.
15 practical ways to conserve water in sectional title schemes
If separate water meters are installed for each section and for the common property in terms of prescribed management rule (“PMR”) 29(3) contained in Annexure 1 to the Regulations made under the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 (“the STSMA”), it will be easier to identify who is using excessive amounts of water. The body corporate can then deal with that person or persons and encourage them to reduce their water consumption. If the body corporate is fined for excessive use of water, the separate meters will also make it easier to prove any possible claim for the fine from the owner or occupier responsible.
If the water bill is excessively or unexpectedly high, the body corporate should hire a plumber to investigate whether there is a leak in any pipes in the scheme. An advantage to installing separate water meters is that it will be much easier to locate and repair the leak as the meter readings could isolate the source of the leak. It may also be that the leak is located on municipal ground, in which case the body corporate should not be held financially responsible for the excess water usage.
The trustees should convene a general meeting to discuss and share information on ways in which to save water. An alternative would be for the body corporate to distribute information pamphlets to the owners and occupiers on how they can conserve water within their sections. For example, owners can turn the tap off while brushing their teeth; load their dishwashers and washing machines full before washing; and take short showers instead of bathing.
The body corporate should install covers over pools, ponds and fountains to avoid loss of water by evaporation, and should ensure that there are no leaks around the pumps.
The body corporate can investigate systems that would re-route the runoff from washing machines, and then use that water for things like flushing the toilet. The installation of such a system will be seen as reasonably necessary, and can be authorised by following the process set out in PMR 29(2).
The body corporate can harvest rainwater from the gutters, and store the run-off in rain barrels (for example JoJo tanks). This water can then be used to water the gardens, or to fill the pools, ponds or fountains. Depending on the circumstances, the installation of the JoJo could be authorised by the trustees on behalf of the body corporate in terms of section 4(c) of the the STSMA, which gives the body corporate the power to purchase, hire or otherwise acquire movable property for the use of owners for their enjoyment or protection or in connection with the enjoyment or protection of the common property. Alternatively, the installation of such a system could be authorised by following the process set out in PMR 29(2).
Another example of a reasonably necessary improvement to common property is borehole and well point water. The body corporate could investigate the occurrence of underground water that can be used for irrigating the gardens.
Another reasonably necessary improvement to common property could include the installation of an advanced irrigation system. Instead of aimlessly watering the garden with hosepipes, the body corporate could save water by installing an irrigation system that services all the grounds, and that can be turned on and off automatically by a timer.
By irrigating the gardens at sunrise and sunset the body corporate would need to use less water as cooler morning and evening temperatures mean losing less water to evaporation. Another practical solution is to avoid watering when it is windy.
Recently there has been an increase in landscaping gardens with alternatives to grass lawns. Options include using pebbles or synthetic grass. The replacement can be authorised by the trustees on behalf of the body corporate in terms of section 4(d) of the STSMA which gives the body corporate the power to, where practicable, to establish and maintain on the common property suitable lawns, gardens and recreation facilities.
The body corporate should plant native plants, which will use less water, and should group the plants according to their watering needs.
It is wise that the body corporate and individual owners and occupiers should aerate all taps, and should also invest in low-flow toilets, efficient shower heads, and water-wise dishwasher and washing machines.
This practical tip is pretty self explanatory. Dripping taps can lose a lot of water over the course of a day, and even more if left for long periods of time.
The body corporate should recommend that the caretaker or gardener use a broom or electric leaf blower, and not a hosepipe with water, to clean driveways and sidewalks.
Power stations use a great deal of water to cool. Therefore, the use of less electricity indirectly saves water too. The body corporate should encourage owners to reduce their electricity consumption.
We hope that these water saving ideas are practical solutions that could be integrated into your scheme. If any or some of these water wise options are used, the individual owners and occupiers as well as the body corporate as a whole, will benefit from lower utility bills.
If you require any legal advice in this regard please contact us at email@example.com.
Installing separate water meters is possible with a body corporate resolution. A Special Levy would be required as this cost cannot be taken from the Admin or the Reserve Funds. The current cost is approx. R3,000 per meter. This amount is often thought to be very high and that the owner “could buy a lot of water for this kind of money.”
Long term though it is the solution – the single and couples in a complex always believe they are paying for all the water being used by the families AND the owners of the larger units are paying more because of their larger PQs.
Whilst the heavy users of water will be indentified, the BC will have to have a Conduct Rule to be able to charge the owners with the municipal fine for the BC using to much water.
A Trustee or a nominated person (or the owners themselves) will have to be appointed to read all the meters every month and forward them to the managing agent, they will then work out the charge for all the owner and send them a statement which has to be paid with their next levy payment. For this extra work the managing agent may well charge for the monthly statements. It is the norm to have the water and sewerage fees added together – these amounts then come out the BC budget.
Landlords may now have to either absorb the cost of the water/sewerage, or reduce their rent and charge the tenants for their usage.
The BC will be responsible for the repairs and maintenance of the meters.