With less than 80 days to go until Day Zero, the City of Cape Town may want to consider getting help from the bottled water industry.
South African National Bottled Water Association (Sanbwa) chairperson John Weaver said that some of their members have donated water to afflicted areas in the past and have sold water at a cost.
“This cost could be dramatically reduced were government to allow for an emergency water category that, for example, allowed bottlers to omit labels.
“Bottled water is regarded as a food product by the Department of Health and must comply with legislation covering, in addition to health and safety issues, packaging and labelling, which is very expensive,” said Weaver.
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Sanbwa is a representative body of the bottled water industry and has a membership list which includes Bonaqua, Valpré and Clover Waters: Nestle Pure Life.
The bottled water industry has remained untouched during the water crisis as 90% of their members use renewable groundwater sources in their packaged products, according to Weaver.
“Groundwater is strongly buffered against drought influence because it is renewed (replenished) in a completely different way to surface water, which is mainly dependent on reliable rainfall, and is thus very susceptible to drought patterns,” explained Weaver.
The city’s Director of Trade and Investment Lance Greyling said that he was planning to consult with the Sanbwa in the near future. He has already had meetings with retailers in an attempt to dissuade them from profiteering off the drought.
Pricing of bottled water
However, Weaver said that any discussion on the pricing of bottled water with the city would be illegal.
“It is illegal in South Africa to discuss, fix and or manipulate the price of goods. So, even if the city were to approach us or any of our members, we are legally obliged to decline to continue the discussion,” Weaver said in an emailed response.
Weaver also said that, while there was no official report of increased sales in Cape Town, stockpiling was probable.
“There have been reports regarding consignments of 5l bottles, which apparently are sold out within hours of being delivered to Cape stores. We have had no official, nor unofficial reports of increased sales, but whenever there is hot weather or drought, sales do increase,” he said.