Newlands spring won’t be closed

Picture: Armand Hough

After a petition made the rounds on social media claiming that the City of Cape Town wished to re-route the water at the spring in Newlands to the municipal water line, and close it off to the public, residents made their opinions known and more than 500 people signed a petition to keep the free water source from drying up.

However, the City has confirmed that their plans for the spring were misunderstood and the closure of the free water supply to the public had never been considered as an option.

The petition against the alleged spring closure was drafted by local businessman, Riyaz Rawoot who started the petition after he received an email from Ward 59 councillor Ian Iversen in May stating that Level 4 water restrictions were to be implemented and that it would apply to water from natural springs around the city too.

The email stated that mayor Patricia de Lille said restrictions need to apply to the “free water” from springs around the city, and therefore people would be restricted to how much water they’re allowed to collect.

The email further said that “a meeting will be held with SA Breweries and the Water Department to discuss the spring in Springs Way off Kildare Road, Newlands.

“Some of the suggestions being discussed will be to re-route the water from the spring to link it up to Albion springs to be integrated into the municipal water system, or to SA Breweries for collection at the depot.”

The petition drawn up by Mr Rawoot said water ws a precious resource that belongs to the people and should not be taken by any individual or company for their sole use, as the public access model practised at SAB Newlands spring was a model for all the other spring points that are currently used by businesses.

Mr Iversen said the Cape Town Municipality had no plans whatsoever to close the Spring Way spring or prevent the public from collecting water.

“Anybody who has visited the site will know that thousands of precious litres of water land up in the river and eventually finds its way to the ocean. Considering the drought situation the City is concerned that this ‘surplus’ water is running to waste and is exploring a range of ideas how this water can be captured,” said Mr Iversen.

Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water, waste services and energy, agreed with Mr Iversen and said the spring would not be closed and that comments made by Mr Iversen regarding the spring usage had been made in lights of reports of overuse of water at the spring.

“The comments of sparing use of spring water were made in light of reports of residents filling up water tanks from these points, causing long queues and creating a disturbance for surrounding residents, as well as calls from the City to use groundwater as sparingly as possible.

“The suggestion to incorporate water from this collection point into the municipal drinking water system or reroute it to the collection point at the SAB depot on Main Road, Newlands, was not meant to imply that the collection point would be closed, only that Mr Iversen intended to explore whether run-off water could be more effectively used for drought relief,” said Ms Limberg.

Ms Limberg said the City has explored whether streams such as the Newlands spring could be harnessed to supplement drinking water supplies.

However, she said that in most cases, specific springs have not been considered because the expense to treat the water would not justify the small yield.

“Filtration and disinfection barriers would be required to protect community health, as would a pressure-feed into the network and additional staff to control the treatment process. Increased use of the water for other purposes such as irrigation or industrial processes would be more cost-effective and simpler to achieve, and would also take some pressure off the City’s potable water reserves,” said Ms Limberg.

The City is currently engaging with the Department of Water
and Sanitation and other stakeholders and is preparing a licence application for further use of the springs.

Mr Rawoot said the petition was still active because while the City had committed in writing to not closing the spring, there was still a possibility it could happen.

Mr Iversen said the City would welcome any ideas from the public as to how to capture the excess spring water.