“Day Zero” came early for the Kildare Road spring in Newlands, when the City of Cape Town, after months of planning, officially shut down one Cape Town’s oldest springs on Wednesday May 23.
The water point, which had 26 outlets, became one of the most frequently visited water collection points around Cape Town, sparking a debate within the City around whether the point should be moved to a more suitable location.
As the water crisis in Cape Town deepened, issues such as traffic congestion, heated arguments among the queuing water collectors and complaints from the surrounding Newlands community increased rapidly.
Newlands swimming pool was identified as the answer, as the City claimed the site was suitably accessible, would have 16 taps, and a better management system in place. The opening of the new water collection point also brought the collection point at the breweries to a close.
Pensioners from Woodstock, Adnaan and Wiedaad Meyer, who had been collecting water daily at the spring, were shocked when they arrived on Wednesday at the spring to find the water point closed.
Ms Meyer said: “We had been using this method of water collection to save water in our homes and it was easily accessible for us. This spot only became very popular when news of the water crisis broke. Before, you’d find regulars meeting up at the spring to collect water and the influx of people has led the City to believe that this spring needed to be closed.”
His wife chipped in, saying the City could have assisted by managing this spring more effectively.
“To shut something down after so many years is a real joke. We collected water here when it was still just running from the pipe, then somebody decided to make it look better and make things easier for the public. They ripped everything out and closed it, a heartless approach, in my opinion.”
Another water collector at the spring is Martin Johanssen who believed there was no real need for the City to close down the spring as an added water point alleviated the pressure. “Why close the spring? You shut down something that has been of service to so many people for hundreds of years to create a new water point. It’s madness and completely daft. The City will now use a number of fancy terms to justify their action, when the truth is that leaving the point open and opening a new one further down the road just gave the public more options,” he said.
“That sounds more like a solution, creating better opportunities for people to collect water. But to shut down the spring, I am actually speechless at this stage.”
The news of the closure spread like wildfire as more and more people were surprised to find the spring shut down.
Professor Steven Robbins from Stellenbosch University posted: “City of Cape Town have totally demolished the Kildare Road spring in Newlands. For over a hundred years people have been coming to this water point. No trace of this historically significant spring remains. “Today, three days after the Kildare Road spring was shut down by the City of Cape Town on May 23, I went to the site of the water collection point to see what was left of it. Riyaz Rawoot’s improvised PVC pipe structure with its 26 water points is gone, and the water point is now completely covered by concrete slabs. The water now flows straight into the river.
“A tall fence separated me from the flowing water that I had once collected there so freely. I felt a sense of loss. I had grown accustomed to this lively meeting spot, where water collectors and water porters from all over the city had first converged during the start of the ‘Day Zero’ crisis. This new collection point is about one kilometre away from the homes of the Newlands residents who had complained so bitterly about the noise, the traffic congestion and the influx of ‘outsiders’ who mostly came from the poor and working class neighbourhoods of the Cape Flats. But what these officials and residents could not see was that this spring was more than simply a pipe filled with flowing water. It was a space saturated with history, memories and sociality.”
Justine Casserley Carroll posted on Facebook: “Since they moved the Kildare Road spring, the flow of water at the brewery is pathetic. Taking longer than five minutes to fill a 20 litre.”
Karen Ellis Brown posted on Facebook: “The other water collection point is horrible. Who knows how many vagrants have washed in the river before we collect. It’s also in a dark woody place where many sit around and watch. There is also a huge sign that says drinking water at your own risk. Wonder why City of Cape Town!”
On Tuesday May 22, an interfaith ceremony with representatives from many different faiths, including traditional leadership from Cape Town, officially opened the new water collection point at the Newlands swimming pool.
Stuart Diamond, the City’s acting Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said: “Due to the ongoing drought in Cape Town, there has been a significant increase in the number of people collecting water from the springs at Kildare Road (Springs Way) and at South African Breweries (SAB) in Newlands. This has resulted in congestion on the roadways which has limited access for large numbers of people, vehicular traffic and parking, and related issues of convenience and safety.”
Mr Diamond encouraged residents to collect water from the new site, confirming that access to the Kildare Road site and the SAB site had been closed.
“There are multiple considerations which have been taken into account in this decision to relocate the spring water access point. The City acknowledges that there is a history of water collection at the Kildare spring site. The City has heard residents who want to collect spring water, and has also heard residents who have raised safety and convenience issues, and others who have asked for spring water to be added into the municipal drinking water system at this time of drought,” he said.
Information about the new spring water collection site:
The site is on the northern side of the Newlands swimming pool, near the Dean Street shopping centre.
It has access for both pedestrians and parking from Main Road.
There are 16 taps in a formal structure which has a platform for containers to stand on, and a drainage system. (Having taps which close means less wastage of spring water.) It is foreseen that these 16 taps will cater to the current needs of water collectors. The City will monitor the situation carefully and evaluate if there are sufficient water outlets.
It is open seven days a week, from 5am to 11pm (times are subject to review) and the site has been provided with lighting and public toilets.
A maximum of 25 itres a person may be collected at a time. This is to speed up the process of collection, but discretion will be applied if there is no queue at the time.
Vehicles may park there for a maximum of 15 minutes, and parking is also available a short walking distance away at the Newlands swimming pool parking.
The water comes from the same source as the spring at Kildare Road, and this new site is situated before the SAB spring collection point.
It is not treated water, and it is used at the residents’ own risk.
This water is not for commercial use, and may not be sold. City staff will monitor the site and act on municipal transgressions as they arise.