On 22 March, SERI launches its latest working paper entitled, “Turning Off the Tap: Discontinuing Universal Access to Free Basic Water in the City of Johannesburg”. The paper looks at the City of Johannesburg’s March 2017 decision to withdraw the universal provision of free basic water and its implications for the poor and their right of access to sufficient water. Since July 2017 only households registered as indigent can access 6 kilolitres of free basic water per month, the basic minimum as stipulated in national policy and legislation.
The paper reviews policy and legislation regarding the provision of free basic water services in South Africa and summarises international lessons about narrow versus universal provision of social benefits. The paper concludes that the City should reconsider its decision to withdraw the universal provision of free basic water as it constitutes an unreasonable, regressive step in the realisation of the right to sufficient water.