The water wars begin

Growing numbers of people queueing at springs to reduce their reliance on municipal water are getting a bitter taste of what the lines at collection points could be like if Day Zero hits.

The uglier side of human nature has already shown itself at the SAB spring in Newlands, with the result that the brewery has stopped night-time access to it.

A sign posted outside the spring in November said there would be no more 24-hour access: it would only be open from 5am to 11pm because of “criminal activity and abuse of the facility”.

This has drawn a mixed response from residents. Helena Kingwill posted on Facebook saying: “We went to the Newlands spring last night to collect water at 8pm, hoping there wouldn’t be much of a queue, but we were wrong. It was long, and when we left, it was even longer.”

She continued: “People from far and wide – a biblical scene. But with plastic urns.” Posting on the Harfield Village group, Stacey Rehbock said the spring should be regulated.

“There were individuals there, a week ago, stocking up with over 500 litres each for one person. They halted the queue and then got rude when called out. We all need to respect the limits that we each have.”

Tana Pressly agreed with Ms Rehbock, saying: “They clog the queues for those wanting to simply get 25 to 50 litres of drinking water, and they’re starting to get aggressive when asked to move to the back of the line.

“I’ve seen the poor security chap having to take a lot of flak and rudeness when trying to enforce the rule for fairness.”

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town has warned that citywide water consumption has risen to dangerous levels, from 611 million litres a day to 641 million litres a day, pushing Day Zero to April 29.

“If water consumption continues to rise, together with the very hot windy conditions which increase evaporation losses, we can expect Day Zero to happen as soon as 18 March 2018. This is a terrifying prospect,” said the City’s director of water and sanitation, Peter Flower.

“Residential customers remain the largest portion of water users. Day Zero is the day that almost all of the taps in the city will be turned off and people will have to queue for water at approximately 200 sites across the peninsula.”

Some residents have questioned the logic of of restricting access to the Newlands spring, but brewery manager John Stenslunde said they had done so because the situation had become unmanageable. “In recent weeks, we have had incidents where members of the public have felt their safety is at risk during the late hours as the collection point is open until 11pm. We have had to manage incidents late at night of people collecting water for commercial use using 1000-litre bulk containers.

“SAB Newlands has employed an additional security staff member to assist with managing incidents of people collecting more than the water collection allowance. The open hours are from 5am to 11pm. Previous to this, it was open 24 hours. However, because of security concerns, opening hours were restricted.”

Meanwhile the Kildare spring in Newlands is proving to be a source of misery for residents at the nearby Communicare-run Creswell House for Seniors.

There have been complaints about motorists blocking the home’s driveway and of shouting and hooting at all hours of the night.

Ward 59 councillor Ian Iversen said he had visited the home and seen the driveway blocked by motorists who had come to collect water.

Water collectors had walked across the home’s lawn to reach the spring, ignoring “private property” signs.

“I think that the rude, selfish people are in the minority, but they are giving, unfortunately, all water collectors a bad name.”

Mr Iversen said he had asked Communicare management to “take the necessary action to protect residents”.