Court finds deployment of prepayment water meters is unconstitutional


Mavela Dlamini,
City Manager
Johannesburg, South Africa — (METERING.COM) — May 8, 2008 – The Johannesburg High Court has ruled that the mandatory deployment of prepayment (pay-as-you-go) meters is unconstitutional and has ruled that the City must remove the meters if residents ask it to do so. The court found that the meters infringe on the constitutional rights of people to have access to sufficient water.

Deployment of the meters began in 2001 as the City embarked on a project in a low-income, mainly residential area to reduce unaccounted-for water losses. A spokesman said that these losses have been reduced from 40 percent in 2001 to 32 percent in 2007, thanks to the City’s efforts to improve infrastructure and identify and prevent leakages, and to an increased awareness on the part of consumers of the need to conserve water.

The City supplies 25 liters of water per person per day free of charge, and in the same judgment the judge ruled that this free supply should be increased to 50 liters. In addition the City was instructed to give residents the option of having ordinary credit water meters if they asked for them.

The pay-as-you-go meters disconnect consumers from the water supply once they have used up their free allocation of water, unless they are able to purchase a top-up credit.

The City is seeking legal advice regarding an appeal of the judgment.