The world is clearly getting warmer – 2016 was recorded as the hottest year since records have been kept, and experts say this trend is likely to continue over the years to come.
However, at the same time as the world heats up, the availability of water supplies to meet water needs is coming under pressure. Currently, large parts of South Africa face drought conditions, and the scarcity of water means we are limited – sometimes severely – in our ability to water plants, take baths and showers, do the laundry, wash up and maintain swimming pools.
Enter the borehole, which is becoming a strong trend among property owners all over South Africa, according to Antony Whitfield, director at Domestic Boreholes. “There is no scientific way to determine if there’s groundwater under your property, so it’s a bit of a hit and miss. That said, people are more and more willing to invest in the gamble, which costs, on average, between R15 000 and R 30 000 for the drilling, because the benefits of finding groundwater are worth it,” he says.
The success rate of finding water is between 60% and 85% in ideal conditions, which preclude difficult geological terrain and heavy urban infrastructure such as electrical cables and pipelines, which make drilling difficult. The ultimate cost of drilling a borehole depends on the depth to the water-bearing geological formation, and the amount of loose or weathered material that needs to be cased off.
Cape Town Boreholes offers a divining (hydrogeologist using various geophysical methods to survey the subsurface geology to establish where best to drill) for free if the customer has accepted their quote. “We’ve had a success rate of 95% over the past 25 years, although no-one can see under the ground, therefore no-one will ever be able to guarantee the amount of water, the water quality or the depth at which the water will be found,” says Jacques du Plessis, owner of the business.
The average drilling cost is around R 600 a metre, according to the Borehole Water Association of Southern Africa (BWA). Once drilling is done and groundwater has been found, there’s another outlay for installing a pump – about R25 000 to R30 000 – and then about R 12 000 for the laboratory water tests. The BWA advises that before you get a quote, find out from neighbours what it cost to install their boreholes so that you can get a sense of how much it could cost you.
“The cost of drilling and the steel encasing you need to install a borehole depends on the area. We have first-hand knowledge of all areas in Cape Town, so we are able to give customers a fairly accurate quote for a borehole; generally a homeowner is looking at 60 to 80 metres at R 450 per metre,” says Du Plessis. Due to Cape Town Boreholes’ competitive rates and professional service they have drilled well over 50 boreholes in the West Coast Atlantic Beach Estate, and have also drilled boreholes at Zewenwacht Wine Estate, Klein Zewenwacht, Zevendal, Oakwood Estate, Fig Tree Estate, Klein Parys, Sandown Estate, Wynberg, Higgovale, Gardens, Landsdowne, Kenwyn, Paarl, Camps Bay, Bantry Bay, Hermanus, and Durbanville.
Drilling is a disruption but only for a short period of time, says Du Plessis. “We use high-pressure air compressors for drilling so you can expect some noise whilst operating, and mud and water coming from the borehole. We don’t use municipal water in the process. When drilling in estates, we usually have landscapers working very closely with us to rehabilitate the area once the borehole is installed, or we can give you reliable recommendations,” adds Du Plessis.
Borehole companies don’t test the quality of the water found, but will recommend that you take a test sample to a laboratory close to you. You will get the results within about three days.
The BWA advises that when getting quotes, ask for each line item or service to be itemised, so that you can easily compare costs with another company’s quote. And make sure you understand all the items listed on the quote.
Is it worth it?
Speak to a homeowner who is using borehole water to maintain their lawn and service household needs, and you’ll find that the expense was worth it. “I use only borehole water for my garden, and I invested in a filtration system so that it can be used for the household as well. It has made a huge difference to my municipal services bill. I save about R 3 000 a month on my water bill. Even in winter, the borehole tank is full,” says Linda Magowan, owner of a large property in Johannesburg.
Water independence from municipal sources is one of the biggest reasons behind the popularity of boreholes in South Africa, confirms Du Plessis, and with a borehole you also say goodbye to frustrating water cuts, municipal disruptions and water rationing during times of drought.
Because of these benefits, and because they offer water security, boreholes add a tangible value to your property of between R 80 000 and R 120 000, according to property agents, especially if it is plumbed into your house water system, thus cutting out the need for municipal water altogether. If this is the case, however, you need to factor in the occasional services to the filtration and reticulation system, as well as water analysis to test water quality, which needs to be done at least once a year, according to the BWA.
Dawie Malan, head of strategic stakeholder engagement for Absa Home Loans, says that according to global property trends, alternative energy sources, electricity and water self-sufficiency, such as the use of boreholes, are becoming more important factors than pools or staff accommodation.
So yes, if you’re planning to settle down for a long stretch of time, or you’re looking for a good return on investment, a borehole is not only a green conscious choice, but a sound investment too.
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Cape Town Borehole installation cost summary
Drilling of borehole R 450 p/m
Steel casing R 490 p/m
Submersible pump R 12 000
Other cost considerations
Water testing to define usage R 3 000
The Pool Care Clinic offers an iron/metal removal system. This system essentially runs the borehole water through a filter then into the pool or holding tank. Approximate cost R 7 000 www.poolcareclinic.co.za
*500L tank and piping, connections, etc. R 12 050
*Garden irrigation system R 26 280
*Quote based on 300m² garden by Silvertree Landscapeswww.silvertreelandscapes.co.za
Regarding borehole registration, please note each municpality has different bylaws regarding registration and licencing.