Trustees and managing agents of sectional title schemes should be taking urgent steps to save water and mitigate against the impact of water rationing and the looming day zero in April when water supplies will be shut down.
This article is relevant to all community property schemes but focuses on commercial and industrial business parks and property owner associations.
It has been reported in the press that the residential sector has cut down on water consumption but the industrial and commercial property sector has been slow to comply.
The emergency means that Trustees should divert funds or at least budget to move funds from other projects. Water saving and water storage should form part of the 10-year maintenance plans that became compulsory in October 2016.
Install individual water meters
Traditionally Sectional Title schemes have not been developed with individual water meters. This practice does not encourage businesses, especially tenants to save water because they don’t pay directly for the water that they consume.
The water is included in levy accounts and shared among owners, which is not fair to those that do not use a lot of water. Increasingly, heavy water users are moving into sectional title business parks. Micro-breweries, food manufacturing businesses, chemical manufacturers and similar businesses all enjoy “free” water and do not take steps to conserve water because they do not pay for it directly. A while back, a water bottling company was discovered in a park in Milnerton. It had been bottling municipal water which it didn’t have to pay for!
It isn’t too late in the year to install water tanks. Cape Town receives 20% of its annual rainfall during the summer months and the large expanses of roof space in business parks will mean that it won’t take a lot of rain to fill the tanks up.
Trustees should consider installing above and underground water storage facilities where there is space if the CoCT warning of the “New Normal”- almost permanent water shortages is to believed or at least take steps to minimise water consumption or use grey water where possible.
Trees and plants – Landscaping and greening of common areas
Trustees should resist the temptation to let trees die and to do away with garden beds.
Trees and gardens add value to both business parks and industrial parks. They have a very positive effect on occupancy levels, rentals and property values.
Aesthetically pleasing landscapes and trees are valued by high-end tenants, as their working surroundings reflect on the standing of their business. Shabby, bleak surroundings create a poor impression and discourage potential tenants.
Rather than removing trees and plants completely, trustees should plant indigenous, drought-resistant varieties. Adapting the landscaping for low water consumption could include drip irrigation, as well as indigenous trees, shrubs and ground covers. These types of plants have been doing well despite almost no rain so far this summer.
Trees must be properly maintained by a trained arborist to prevent them from doing damage to paving and road surfaces during this time of drought. Trees that don’t receive adequate water will spread roots in search of water. Trustees and property managers should encourage tenants to collect grey water to water the trees in their park.
Trees should have adequate space around them to catch water so that roots don’t need to spread too Tree rings should be increased where possible and mulch should be laid around trees and in gardens beds to prevent heat build-up and prevent evaporation, especially where trees are surrounded by asphalt and concrete.
Should the decision be made to remove plants to replace them with stones, they must be laid on a water porous material that prevents the growth of weeds instead of PVC, which causes to the water to run off into stormwater drains rather than add to our groundwater resources.
Well Points and boreholes
Simply drilling a borehole or well-point is not the answer to a consistent water supply says De La Porte – it is only a matter of time before the City of Cape Town (CoCT) puts a stop to the practice. Groundwater cannot be extracted at whim. It’s not an endlessly available resource and is vulnerable to complete depletion.
Jonty de la Porte, director of commercial and industrial property consultancy, De La Porte Property Group, says that it is “up to the management, trustees and owners of units in business or industrial parks to practice corporate citizenship, to both preserve the value of their properties and conserve essential resources”.