Cape Town water crisis starts having ‘knock-on’ effect in Joburg and PE

Consumer price watchdog Retail Price Watch, which has been tracking the price of bottled water in supermarkets in the Western Cape, says that although prices in the major chains have not generally risen over the past week, the major issue remains shortage of supply.

“Bottled water manufacturers in the Eastern Cape and KZN have confirmed that they are racing against the clock to supply the unprecedented demand for 5l bottled water in the Western Cape.,” said Retail Price Watch’s Viccy Baker.

“However, when water does become available, it is swept off the shelves within an hour, even though most stores are limiting the quantities available to each customer.”

Baker confirmed that as of 1 February, at least two Woolworths and two Checkers in the Southern suburbs of Cape Town had no supply.

“Pick n Pay Online is advertising 5l Aquartz in quantities limited to 12 bottles, but several people have reported that stock is not available.

“The Western Cape shortage is having a ‘knock-on’ effect in many ways: stores in Port Elizabeth have also been selling out fast with Checkers and Shoprite only able to supply 5l bottled water sporadically over the past few days.

“Although Port Elizabeth is facing severe water restrictions, it has not yet named a ‘Day Zero’ so one can only assume that people are stocking up in order to be better prepared in the event of a Cape Town scenario.

Plastic bottle problems

Plastic bottle manufacturers in Gauteng are also experiencing greatly increased demand, Baker said, with companies in the Western Cape – which use 5l and 25l bottles for purposes other than water – finding their businesses affected by lack of supply in the Western Cape and so are turning to Gauteng.

“Plastic bottle manufacturer Blowpet in Bronkhorstspruit says that in addition to orders from businesses in the Western Cape some companies, NGOs and private individuals in Gauteng are buying 5l bottles, filling them at assembly points, and then donating them to various institutions in Cape Town.

“It is difficult to gauge the impact on the environment in Cape Town of all the plastic that is flowing in to the city. In the short term people will probably hang on to their 5l bottles with the intention of refilling them at water points but discarded bottles will add to the already critical plastic waste pollution on our shorelines,” said Baker.

“Plastic does not degrade and if burnt it gives off toxic fumes. Perhaps it is time for the big supermarkets and/or plastic recyclers to come to the party and in good time start offering accessible recycling points around the peninsula before the plastic overflow becomes yet another Cape Town crisis.”

What you should be paying for water if you can get it is between R15 to R23 for 5 litres, depending on the brand.

“Consumers who feel water is being overpriced or that they are being otherwise unfairly treated can write to [email protected] While we cannot promise redress, we will make every attempt to investigate the matter and bring it to the attention of the authorities,” said Baker. “Only email queries will be attended to.”

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

Read: Government to step in on price of bottled water in Cape Town

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Cape Town water crisis starts having ‘knock-on’ effect in Joburg and PE