The City of Cape Town has come under fire from Hout Bay residents for a series of massive water leaks in the midst of the drought crisis.
In one case, residents estimate 300kl an hour were lost from a burst water main.
Residents are accusing the City of not maintaining infrastructure and employing “sub-par” building contractors to work on projects located near key water systems.
Residents of Riverside Terrace say they are still in shock after watching “millions” of litres of fresh drinking water flow for hours from a burst main on Monday evening, February 5.
“The water department only arrived two hours after it was reported. Even then, they didn’t know where the mains tap was, so the water couldn’t be shut off,” said Riverside Terrace resident Garth Dil.
“In this day and age and they can’t find the blueprint of where the mains tap is? This sickens me to see this fresh water going to waste like this.”
Residents said they had overheard water maintenance officials complaining that the shut-off valve was rusted, once it had been located.
“Why on earth don’t they service the infrastructure? You would think that this sort of maintenance would be critical to a city perilously close to running out of water. They are utterly incompetent and here we are desperately trying our utmost to save every drop,” Mr Dil said.
Imizamo Yethu resident Theo Veerapen, a retired building contractor, said the settlement was also experiencing “severe” water leakages caused by contractors working on the roads and infrastructure.
“There is digging going on all the time, and the work is being done by local building contractors who are breaking the water pipes. This happened in Goniwe Street on Wednesday (January 31) and again in Biko Street on Thursday (February 1),” Mr Veerapen said.
“The water was gushing down the street, hundreds of thousands of litres. It went between the houses and eventually went all the way down to the police station. On the Wednesday, I reported the matter at 9am and they only came to fix it at 3pm.”
He feared that if the leaks continued, the City would cut off water to the area.
“In the end, it will be the residents who pay the price,” he said.
Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for area north, said the water and sanitation department had been notified of the burst water main in the vicinity of Riverside Terrace at 9.45pm on Monday.
“The first-level response team was dispatched immediately to Riverside Terrace. Upon arrival, they initially shut down the reticulation system within Riverside Terrace but were unable to isolate the supply,” Ms Little said.
“They then realised that the burst was on the major 300mm-diameter trunk main supply pipe which feeds across the valley to Suikerbossie reservoir. The pipeline is situated within a servitude that runs through private property.”
She said the shutdown required “specialist knowledge” and a senior official had been sent to the site to proceed with the shutdown.
“The supply was isolated at approximately
“The burst occurred in the lowest-lying area on this section of pipeline and the water within the pipeline continued to drain out of the system overnight. The teams commenced with the repairs under difficult site conditions on Tuesday and finally managed to reinstate the supply at approximately 12.30am on Wednesday. “
Ms Little confirmed that recent pipe damage in Imizamo Yethu was due to road and infrastructure work by Amandla Construction.
“Amandla Construction have had difficulty identifying the location of existing underground pipework and has encountered various unmapped water mains in the area. Due to extreme density, they are forced to drive heavy construction vehicles on top of pipes, which can damage existing water mains.
“Furthermore, when the pipe damage occurs it is not possible to isolate a particular section as the isolating valves are either vandalised or located under informal structures. The result is that the water supply to the whole of IY needs to be shut off to execute the repairs.”
She said that given the site conditions, protecting existing infrastructure was “extremely challenging”.
“Amandla has undertaken to be extra cautious and to exercise stringent controls when executing works in an attempt to prevent further pipe failures. Further, Amandla is in the process of installing new water mains and isolating valves to ensure that smaller sections can easily be shut off in the event of future pipe damage and to improve turnaround times for pipe repairs.”
Meanwhile, Hout Bay Neighbourhood Watch (HBNW), along with SAPS, is identifying natural water collection points in and around Hout Bay to prepare management plans for them.
“We are already aware of some natural springs and river access points. However, we are calling on members who are aware of any watering points to please let us know where they are and whether they have any risk, such as pollution, attached to them,” said HBNW’s Rod Panagos.
“For example, the Bethal Weir seems to be a good water-collection point, but very few people know that there is a swimming hole upriver where kids often defecate which creates a high-risk
E coli situation. We need to signpost this risk so as to avoid outbreaks of gastroenteritis or worse diseases.”
This information can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or preferably pin the location on Google Maps and send it to 083 454 9090. If you are a borehole or well-point owner willing to allow HBNW/CoCT members controlled access for purposes of water extraction, contact Mr Panagos at email@example.com
Earlier this week, the City announced that Day Zero was expected to be moved to mid-May due to the decline in agricultural usage. However, there had not been any significant decline in urban usage.
“All Capetonians must therefore continue to use no more than 50 litres per person per day to help stretch our dwindling supplies,” said deputy mayor Ian Neilson.