Drought declared a disaster

This week dam levels in the Western Cape dropped to 31.1 percent which is 1.6 percent lower than the previous week. This has led to Mayor Patricia de Lille declaring the province a local disaster in terms of Section 55 of the Disaster Management Act. Theewaterskloof dam near Villiersdorp, pictured, has recorded low levels of water due to the heat and drought.

The drought in Cape Town was officially declared a disaster by the City of Cape Town earlier this week, with approximately 113 days of usable water left and dam levels dropping to an effective 21.5 percent.

Mayor Patricia de Lille declared a local disaster, in terms of Section 55 of the Disaster Management Act, on Friday March 4.

According to the mayor, this declaration is valid for a period of three months but can be extended on a month-to-month basis by notice in the Provincial Gazette. A council decision is not required.

The City also moved against water wasters by releasing a list of the streets where the top 100 water guzzlers live.

The name-and-shame list included streets in Bishopscourt, Rondebosch, Newlands, Claremont, Kenilworth and Salt River, among other neighbourhoods.

According to the list, Bishopscourt alone uses an average of
2.5 million litres a month, of water with a property in Upper Hillwood Road using nearly
554 000 litres in one month. Another in Norwich Road uses 500 000 litres, and in Bishopscourt Drive, a property is using about
236 000 litres.

When Tatler visited the posh leafy suburb on Thursday March 2, to find out why so much water was being used in the area, many of those we spoke to seemed oblivious to the source of water waste. They said most residents used boreholes to keep their gardens so green.

Mawonga Mjuza, a security guard who patrols the area on a bicycle, said he had never seen anyone using a hosepipe since the water restrictions started.

“I see them using watering cans and buckets. There was a pipe burst in January on the corner of Colenso and Balfour roads and water was running down the road, but the City came out after an hour to fix it,” said Mr Mjuza.

Resident Andrew Ferguson said he hadn’t seen anyone wasting water in the area and he used to grey water on his plants.

However, resident Gerard Fortry said had spotted a Torquay Road resident using a hosepipe and a neighbour had been using a water can three or four times a week on days when he wasn’t permitted to do so.

“I don’t feel bad telling you because of the crisis we’re in,” he said, adding that his household used less than 2000 litres.

“I save water from the kitchen sink to use on the flowers. I also use water from the gutter on the plants,” said Mr Fortry.

Bishopscourt Resident Association Committee vice chairman David Baker said the suburb’s appearance on the list was worrying, but he suggested that burst pipes and metering issues might also be to blame.

“Some residents did engage with us on the day of the news report. One had a major pipe burst and the leak had been repaired. One has contested their usage saying that for years their usage has been low and it all of a sudden spiked. The resident believes that the meter is misreading and they paid for the meter to be swopped out.

“Another has indicated they had a pipe burst. Therefore at least some of our incidents were not negligent wastage. It is possible that there are more valid explanations. Having said that, there are bound to be cases of water wastage and we all need to improve,” said Mr Baker.

Ward 62 councillor, Liz Brunette plans to visit Bishopscourt residents to discuss their water consumption.

“Residents with boreholes typically do not use borehole water in the homes; only in their gardens and in some cases to top up their swimming pools and water features. It must be noted that the City has made calls on borehole users to also abide by the Level 3 and 3B restrictions, for instance to only water gardens with borehole water at the designated times and days.

“Borehole users also have a great responsibility on how they use this precious and finite resource. Pool covers are required for pools that are being topped up,” said Ms Brunette.

In Salt River, a property in Goldsmith Road recorded 166 000 litres of water used, but Ashraf Davids, who lives in the area, said the City’s list “was a joke”, because most of the wastage could be traced to burst pipes and issues with water meters. “They (City) points fingers at properties and people, when they are so many faults and things that could add to the problem. I am not saying that people are cleared of this fault, but the City must take some kind of responsibility for this mess too,” he said.

Mr Davids said three meters had been stolen in two weeks in Salt River and water had gushed from the street and from several properties. The City had responded quickly enough, he said, but not before thousands of litres were lost.

“I would actually like to know how many litres of water were wasted due to a City fault. That is a question that will never be answered, but they are quick to put the spotlight on property owners,” Mr Davids said.

The City said all those who had disputed their bills or applied for an underground leaks rebate or a meter test had been excluded from its list.

According to the City, each customer has a legal responsibility to ensure their plumbing does not leak – even the plumbing and pipes underneath a house.

In a statement, the City said the average household should be using less than 20 000 litres a month.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy said water saving needed to become “etched in our DNA”.

“As Cape Town is situated in a water-scarce region, we must simply become more resource efficient,” she said.

Those caught flouting water restrictions face a spot fine of up to R5 000, escalating to R10 000 on conviction, or possible jail time for serious and repeat offenders. BLOB To report leaks residents are urged to contact the City’s Technical Operations Centre Hotline on 0860 103 089 (water option) or SMS on 31373 or email waterTOC@capetown.gov.za