Cape Town – Domestic boreholes are the most recent addition to the growing eco-friendly and energy-efficient property trend.
The trend is predicted to see unprecedented growth as drought continues to plague many parts of the country and a global water crisis threatens.
Internationally, there has been a move towards private water supply and South Africa is no exception. In fact, Dawie Malan, head of strategic stakeholder engagement for Absa Home Loans, recently disclosed to radio 702’s The Money Show that, according to global property trends, alternative energy sources and electricity and water self-sufficiency, such as the use of boreholes, were becoming more important factors than pools or staff accommodation.
Johannesburg Water recently embarked on a city-wide campaign to promote the value of backyard boreholes on properties in the city, saying there were more reasons than before to drill one.
“It is an excellent way to access pure and natural underground water and although initial costs of drilling and installing pipes and pumps may be high, there are many long-term benefits in getting your water straight from the ground,” the utility said, adding that there were few ongoing costs associated with a borehole, provided it was sunk well and properly maintained.
Pam Golding Properties is also noting with interest the growth of the borehole trend throughout the country, and although the drive has not yet reached the stage where boreholes are in greater demand than swimming pools or staff accommodation, agents say this couldchange in the future.
Surina du Toit, Pam Golding Properties’s area manager for Paarl, Franschhoek and Wellington, said she was seeing an increase in boreholes being sunk on residential properties and that, recently, the group sold a plot in Wellington primarily because it had a borehole, leading to a monthly water saving of R3 000.
Carol Reynolds, Pam Golding Properties’s area principal for Durban Coastal, said the branches in the region were seeing more people investigating the option of boreholes because of the water crisis and that, in Ballito, there had been an influx of inquiries due to the water shortages in that region. Some clients in Durban North had installed boreholes for conservation reasons, and water-storage tanks were also popular.
In Bloemfontein, the trend is evident, with Hennie Aucamp, Pam Golding Properties area manager saying: “With the water restrictions in Bloemfontein there has been a definite increase in buyers asking for properties with boreholes. I wouldn’t say boreholes are being favoured over swimming pools, but they have become a good selling feature of a property.”
Hydrogeologist Derek Whitfield, MD at Gauteng’s Environmental Drilling and Remediation Services, said private individuals living in urban areas had been drilling and supplying their own water for many years, with the older homesteads and peri-urban areas initially making use of boreholes.
For the past five years, however, there had been more of a demand from urban homeowners to “get off the grid”, he said.
“We get inquiries pretty much from across (Joburg) and we foresee a steady demand going forward as Joburg Water has recently signed a MOU with the Borehole Water Association of South Africa to promote the use of groundwater in the urban areas of Johannesburg.
“There is also the desire of homeowners to be independent from service suppliers going into the future. Having your own water supply means not only do you have access to good quality water, but that it is not influenced by service disruption and price increases.”
Whitfield said further benefits included increased property value, which could be between R80 000 and R120 000.
However, he warned owners would have to service the filtration and reticulation system “from time to time” and get their water analysed at least once a year.
Whitfield advised homeowners looking at installing boreholes to make use of reputable contractors, such as companies registered with the Borehole Water Association.
“It is not a cheap exercise to have your own water, so you don’t want to ‘skimp’ and take cheap options. They will cost you more in the long run. If you are going to do it, then do it properly,” he said.
Ben Steenkamp, a director at Durban-based T&T Drilling, which specialises in borehole drilling in KZN, Cape Town, Mozambique and Namibia, said about 15 years ago he thought the demand for residential boreholes would slow down. However, he is busier now than ever.
“Obviously with the drought at the moment, there is huge demand for boreholes. But we are also seeing a drop in the water table as a result of the drought. In Harding, we used to dig 40m to 60m for water, but we are now digging 80m to 100m. On the north coast where we once could drill 80m to 120m, we have to now dig 150m.”
Steenkamp said his greatest demand for residential boreholes came from the KZN north coast area of KwaDukuza, whereas a couple of years back residential properties in the Cape Town area kept him busy as residents there struggled with drought-induced water restrictions.
“Many people are putting Jojo tanks in too, which should be a first step,” he said.
Although initial outlay costs were high, Steenkamp said the benefits were worth it.
“Once you have a borehole pump system, you can turn off your municipal water valve and have access to fresh and clean underground water which contains no chemicals.”
Breaking down the process, Steenkamp explained it would take one day for them to drill down to water, another day for tests to be conducted on the water, and a third day to install the pump.
Average costs were about R50 000 for drilling, R12 000 for the laboratory water tests, and R25 000 to R30 000 for the installation of the pump.
Bill Rawson, chairman of the Rawson Property Group, said many homeowners were already “feeling the pinch” in their gardens, with yellow lawns, drooping foliage and pools with low-water levels.
This was making buyers think twice about some homes. But, he added, in every crisis was opportunity and the drought was no exception.
“By adapting to the situation, and installing water-wise solutions in their homes and gardens, there is a good chance that quick-thinking property-owners could increase the resale value of their homes.”
While the cost of water-saving upgrades may not always have a 1:1 return, buyers might see a home with a beautiful garden, in the midst of other homes with dead grass and trees, and decide that a higher asking price is “fair and worthwhile”, he said.
Bonny Fourie, Independent HOME
PICTURES: Derek Whitfield, Environmental Drilling and Remediation Services and J Gey van Pittius, Pump and Irrigation Engineers in Cape Town