No hike in Cape bottled water prices despite growing shortage

The prolonged drought in the Western Cape and the imminent threat of “day zero” has given rise to fears of price hikes for bottled water.

However, research by consumer price watchdog, Retail Price Watch, has found that major retail chains in the region are largely sticking to 2017 prices for 5l bottled water.

The net effect is that there has been a rush on bottled water and many stores have found themselves temporarily out of stock, says Viccy Baker of Retail Price Watch.

“Under normal circumstances demand pressure would have increased the price of the larger sizes, but instead stores have been offering specials which have cleared their shelves, even if only for a short time,” she said.

“Retailers are to be commended for not capitalising on the shortage, although it is very likely that consumers who are already very angry about the way the water crisis in the Western Cape has been handled, would not tolerate large price hikes,” Baker said.

“On 25 January Woolworths in the Southern suburbs of Cape Town which sells its house brand for R22/5 litres, was offering two bottles for R31 and the shelves in most stores were cleared before lunchtime.

“Pick n Pay and Checkers Blue Route were out of stock but promising deliveries on 26 January while Checkers Muizenberg is selling its house brand Eastern Highlands for R15 a bottle.”

Water Watch

5l still water Average January 2017 price Average January 2018 price
Aquartz R23.22 R21.70
Aquelle R18.25 R19.41
Nestle Pure Life R22.49 R20.36
Pick n Pay R17.99 R17.99
Thirsti R19.81 R18.99
Tsitsikamma R18.37 R18.99
Woolworths R22.47 R22.99
Average price R20.37 R20.06

Judy Woodgate of Tstsikamma Crystal Water in the Eastern Cape said that demand has been “unprecedented” with her sales managers witnessing people fighting over the last bottle of water on shelves in supermarkets in Cape Town.

“We have been besieged not just by retailers but by members of the public who want to buy at source because they cannot buy from the stores,” she said.

“We are bottling as fast as we can and have an order book which will fill 31 trucks all headed for Cape Town in the next week.”

Woodgate offers a caution to homeowners wanting to buy large quantities of water – many opting for truckloads of more than 5,000 litres – that storage in the sunshine can offer water deterioration over time.

Baker said that empty 25 litre plastic bottles have been sold out at stores such as Mambo’s and Plastic World.

Monique Hector, a spokesman for Mambo’s confirmed that the Cape stores had experienced increased demand and had sold out. “We are expecting deliveries but cannot say when.”

Baker said that over the past year prices of 5 litre bottled water around the country have generally stabilised.

Retail Price Watch is a consumer website dedicated to providing the latest up-to-date information on consumer good prices across South Africa.

Read: Impact of the water crisis on Cape Town’s property market

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No hike in Cape bottled water prices despite growing shortage