My R89 000 water bill – any suggestions on what to do now? | Fin24
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My R89 000 water bill – any suggestions on what to do now?

Mar 03 2016 11:14

In August, we became a beneficiary of infrastructure upgrading by the Joburg City Council. The ancient mosquito breeding ground which doubled up as an underground water meter, was replaced by a fancy contraption that stands proudly outside the front wall of our home.

Unfortunately, apart from occasional admiring glances at the new structure, I didn’t pay much attention. Until yesterday. Which is when an SMS from the metro saying we owed R89 000 this month. After a better than expected call centre experience, a pleasant lady emailed me the account. Sure enough, it is the newfangled water meter which triggered those palpitations.

According to the council, since the new meter was installed our household has started using five times as much water as before – a staggering 18 000 litres a day. Consuming that much water, by the way, would require three taps running full bore around the clock. Or perhaps watering the gardens of a suburban block or two. Neither of which, I know for certain, has been happening.

Here’s the problem. My detailed email to the helpful call centre lady has gone unanswered. So has the copy to a Council executive. As we work mainly from home, getting cut off because of this obviously outrageous account isn’t an option. It’s not possible I’m the only ratepayer to have this experience. What to do? Any guidance warmly appreciated.

From Biznews community member Patrick Hughes

I have a similar issue. Mine however in the city of cape town and they have not changed the water meter. They simply chose to change my water tariff and back bill me four years!!

They furthermore decided to back bill sewage.  We have a septic tank system. There is no sewage lines close to where we stay. They announced they where cutting my water as i was departing for a month stint in Europe!

Numerous trips to the town council have been in vain. I gave the matter to the municipal ombudsman who seems to be making some progress.They however hand delivered another notice to disconnect yesterday!

I will be on the phone to the ombudsman again this morning…

From Biznews community member George Henderson

You are not alone in this. It is happening daily all over South Africa. Your next step is to immediately declare a dispute with your municipality. By doing that they can’t cut your water supply until the dispute is resolved. In the meantime you pay the average of your last three months account on a monthly basis, again until the dispute is resolved.

From Biznews community member Cat Green

You are not the only one. When my new meter was installed I have also had this outrageous account. I was there when the meter was installed and the reading was given to me. I had used 8.8 KL from the last reading until the time of installation. I was sent an account for 88 KL. I live alone so it’s possible for me to have used this. Based on this I have had further large accounts whereas previously I had used an average of 15 KL pm. One cannot get hold of anyone to fix it and even if you visited the City of Jhb offices you cannot find anyone intelligent enough to understand the reconciliation of the account. Please let me know whether we should all march on their offices and destroy the place to get any attention.

From Biznews community member Margaret Louise Hodges

Phone the consumer watch at The Star. They are brilliant. I had a R54,000 bill some years ago – one little old lady pensioner in a tiny house in Rivonia. They helped me solve the problem.

From Biznews community member Cathi Young

I’m pleased to see it wasn’t just me but it’s devastated my small household – I live in Durban (eThekwini municipality) and also had a “new” meter installed by them. My old one was perfectly adequate however my dogs announced the arrival of men working outside my gate. I assumed it was normal…..A month later I received a HUGE bill and a warning from the dear municipality to say my usage was extremely high.  This was the start of a payment exercise that has broken my measly bank account!

I quickly got out a leak detecting company who could find NO water leak so after spending hours with their listening devices (I assume wanted to save face) & told me they had a found a “leak” deep down, literally close to the Earth’s core!!! As I’m a questioning type of person I naturally asked them to show me but they maintained their equipment was picking it up but we couldn’t “see” it. Then the bills started to arrive. They said I had to replace all the piping leading up to this ghost leak (naturally at an enormous cost) and so I duly sucked up my worry and paid. And the pipes were replaced.

I had to sell the house (transfer was a few weeks later) and then when I moved the new owner said he wanted me to pay to have the pipes laid exactly as they had been when he’d signed his offer to purchase. Again I paid. I pay a monthly water loss levy to eThekwini so I submitted my claim through Westwood insurance in October last year. This amounted to R10 000 just for the “leak” detection, not even the larger amount I had to pay per municipality as per their meter.

When we had to get clearance from the municipality for the transfer of the house I had to then come up with just under R80 000 as they were adamant I’d used this water or that the fictional leak was still there. I then got another plumbing company in & they redid the pipes as per the new owners demands but they too couldn’t find a “leak”. So I had to pay more……

When I called eThekwini to find out when I was likely to be reimbursed the R10 000 I’d paid in October 2015 they pushed me from department to department, nobody could help me. I was eventually told that their system says there is a dispute listed and this should be resolved by March 2016?

I don’t have a leg to stand on – I’ve down close to R100 000 that I’ve been held to ransom to pay but no-one can tell me when or even If I’ll be reimbursed.

I’m a widow with small children to educate and I simply cannot afford to be left in this mess. I’ll wait with anticipation to see your response or outcome. I live in hope…

From Biznews community member Chris Pappas

You need to start by getting your ducks in order.  Do you have the handover docs that were signed the day the new meter was installed?

If not, request a copy from the council.  Next you need to monitor your meter for the next few days to determine what your consumption is. If there is a water leak on your side, you will quickly see it by the rate the meter is ticking over.

Did you have a prepaid meter previously installed or was it a regular postpaid meter? You’re right about them cutting you off. If you get your info quickly, you can raise a dispute while they sort out the problem and they can flag your account. This will only happen if you have concrete proof that the error is on their side. Examples would be that they loaded the opening meter reading incorrectly.

All municipalities were audited last year and the bill could be a result of previous errors in billing you and not necessarily your current billing. More info about your previous metering situation would assist in determining this.

The councils stand will be that the water was paid to rand water and therefore it must be charged on. It’s a difficult fight but I suggest stop calling the call centre and start visiting the COJ offices where you can try get your case escalated to the branch Director. Only at that time will you actually start getting info that actually matters.

It’s difficult to offer more advise as the info I have is limited.

From Biznews community member Tony Reddy

You’re not the only one, a friend of mine received an account this week of R110k.

Lots of speculation around the municipality recovery losses but obviously no facts.

From Biznews community member Henk Kruger

Referring to your water  issue.

Get a flow meter directly behind the one installed by CoJ.  That is between the CoJ meter and the main incomer to your premises.

Here is an example:

  1. You will notice that it is a clamp on.
  • It also has a RS232 port for data exchange.
  • Please ensure that it is SABS approved and calibrated to standards set by CoJ or whoever your area metering authority is.
  • The daily substantiating results can be used to settle a “dispute” and prompt a calibration test.

    From Biznews community member Gavin Kennedy

    I feel your pain!!!

    A few years ago (at Bryanston High) we got a water bill for > R180k which we were “certain” was a mistake. Sadly – it wasn’t – months of estimated readings and watering of sports fields and filling pools – and then an ACTUAL reading and wham!!!

    Shortly afterwards one of their meters stopped working and we immediately installed our own additional meters and took (almost) daily readings.

    This had two effects…

    • we quickly noticed unusual usage on an almost daily basis (and uncovered kids leaving taps on, toilets running, pipes leaking Etc); and
  • when the Council eventually fixed their meter and sent a massive bill (based on previous high usage) we were able to show our regular “actual” readings for the same period.
  • This resulted in a credit of almost R500k against their estimates AND massive daily savings (and funded the tennis court revamps) :-)

    BUT – only after years of correspondence and our water being cut off (yes, at a school) so have a word with your neighbour about running a hosepipe over your wall soon.

    Our strategy remains in place and we regularly all meters and verify against their accounts so we’re never shocked (pun intended as we do the same with electricity)

    Here’s a lady who was (eventually) extremely helpful in getting our account sorted Lovey Sikwane <>

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    biznews  |  water  |  municipality


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