Newlands Spring reopens

The public filling their bottles at the Newlands Springs.

The Friends of Newlands Spring have welcomed the reopening of the spring but say the long closure highlights the need to reassess its design.

The Newlands and Bradwell springs reopened to the public on Monday June 15, after the City of Cape Town received clearance from City health and law enforcement, following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

In line with Covid-19 regulations, the City implemented several safety measures to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

This includes only opening eight of the 16 taps at Newlands, providing additional security to manage the physical distancing, parking arrangements, and other Covid-19 regulations.

Hand sanitiser will be provided at the entrance to the facility; as well as security monitoring and ensuring that containers do not touch the bottom part of the tap.

Jess Tyrrell of The Friends of Newlands Spring had been lobbying for the spring to be reopened since its closure, saying it should never have been closed in the first place and remained accessible to all. And while she welcomes its reopening, she said it highlights the need to re-examine not only how the Newlands Spring is being handled by authorities but also the “design flaws” of the site.

“This banal design creates a health risk in the time of an epidemic, and more importantly, it creates a more serious long-term health risk – physically, mentally, socially and spiritually – in that the design disconnects people from the water’s source. In a time of climate crisis that is caused because of people’s disconnection from nature, we urgently need inspiring designs that create and encourage our connection to water, to nature, in everyday life,” she said.

Ms Tyrrell, an environmental psychologist said there were vast amounts of research and evidence that showed how specific design elements disconnected people from nature. In the case of water when you install a tap and there are also ways that inspire the understanding of where the water is actually coming from – the earth.

“I’m not a designer myself, but my field of interest is nature connection and an ecological identity and how that leads to people being environmentally caring. My no-design-training imagines a giant and beautiful rock in the place of the current brick wall, with plants growing out of it, and holes in the rock that allow the water to keep flowing and to be collected easily,” she said.

Ms Tyrrell said there badly needs to be more beauty in the site, as beauty inspired people, inspired emotions and this led people to associate good feelings with water and nature. “This then leads to a water ethic because they feel connected and they care,” she said.

Facebook users excitedly responded to the Friends post regarding the reopening of the spring. Nabeelah Abarder said: “Thanks for all your hard work, it felt great to go get water again.”

Trudy Tosh said she was happy to get water yesterday and didn’t experience any problems, while, Sinead Phoenix Farrell said: “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I managed to get our water filled last night before the crowds came. Water has never tasted so sweet. I’ve been drinking nothing else for seven years now and that was a rough lockdown.”

The spring will be open seven days a week from 5am to 9pm. The public will need to adhere to the following rules: collections are limited to a maximum of 25 litres at a time to prevent backlogs from forming; no entry without a mask; keep a physical distance of 1.5 metres from others at all times; sanitise your hands upon entering the site; open and close taps with the back of your hands and ensure your container does not touch the tap.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, said special effort was made to reopen the two springs.”Recognising that these sites are very important to many residents, and their significance in the city’s culture, a special effort was made to open the spring water collection points as soon as we could. We kindly ask that residents comply with health and safety measures to allow everyone to use these sites safely and efficiently.”

If you have any design suggestions or ideas, email Ms Tyrrell at info@wilderdom.co.za

The Newlands Springs site is situated on the northern side of the Newlands swimming pool, near the Dean Street Shopping Centre.