Water theft

Cliff Walmsley, Table View

On December 15, I reported to the City of Cape Town that water was being taken from a standpipe in Gie Road by a construction company, Exeo, for use at the firm’s development.

Now we are into the New Year, and Exeo’s large tankers are filling up every day from this standpipe /fire hydrant.

I reported this to the City WhatsApp number to report misuse of water and the reply I received was, “Monitored, metered and from a recycled source.”

I would like to know from your readers that it is in fact recycled water, and where does it come from?

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, responds:

The City’s water and waste services department can confirm that there is no treated-effluent draw-off point in Gie Road.

Residents can contact the City via email at water@capetown.gov.za to report contraventions of the water restrictions (evidence should be provided to assist the City’s enforcement efforts), or they can send an SMS to 31373.

It should also be noted that metered standpipes rented by customers external to the City (mostly developers for building purposes) were responsible for only 0.20% of total water billed during 2016/17.

The City is making treated wastewater available to businesses dependent on water.

By using treated water, businesses are reducing their use and reliance on drinking water. This is one of many ways in which the City and businesses are adapting to water scarcity and stretching drinking water supplies for essential use.

Treated effluent is the final product from the treatment of sewers which meets the general authorisation standard for discharge into the rivers for irrigation. It is further filtered and pumped into the network for further use.

This network is separate from the potable water reticulation network which supplies drinking water.

We are and remain committed to creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and we are doing everything we can to bring additional sources of water on stream.

In the meantime, treated wastewater is being made available to businesses. More than 200 businesses are using treated effluent from permanent pipelines, while 150 businesses are collecting treated effluent at wastewater treatment works and draw-off points.

These include stormwater and sewer cleaning companies, construction companies, painting companies, boat-cleaning companies, car washes, movie production companies, the Cape Town International Airport, outdoor improvement companies, manufacturing companies and drilling companies.

They are all using treated effluent in their operations.

Construction-related activities where treated wastewater can be used include:

Sub-base material for reinstating asphalt as per City specifications.

Construction of road sub-base layers not sensitive to water quality requirements.

All construction site dust control.

Washing off of retarder from concrete.

Terrace works compaction.

Earthworks compaction.

Trench backfilling.

Cleaning of construction equipment.

Spraying on compacted surfaces.

Currently the City has made available seven treated water draw-off points to businesses – including the two points in Goodwood and Thornton, which opened in December 2017.

The City has made R2.4 million available to make an additional 24 treated water draw-off points available to businesses.

Using treated wastewater on site also makes financial sense because at R5.30 (including VAT) per kilolitre it is much cheaper than using potable water. More importantly, using treated wastewater helps Cape Town to conserve the potable water supply.

Businesses that want to apply can visit the City’s website at www.capetown.gov.za/treated-effluent

Charles Cooks, contracts manager at Exeo, responds:

Due to complaints from the residents we were forced to do dust suppression by means of watering.

Water was drawn out with pumps from the chambers and excavations for dust suppression on site.

Unfortunately the supply from these sources is limited.

We sourced a borehole with the assistance of the project team and used the salt water for the dust suppression.

The amount of water used could have given an uninformed person the idea that we are only using drinking water on site, which is definitely not the case.

Unfortunately we had to use water from the standpipe for the road construction and building work as noted in the complaint.

The salty water sourced from the boreholes causes damage when used in building work and road construction.

The standpipe used is a City of Cape Town one for which we submit the readings monthly and get invoiced accordingly.

We have applied to the City for exemptions from the higher rates that are currently applied to us in a very competitive market where contractors are fighting for survival.

We try to limit the use of clean water as our current rate does not make allowance for the inflated rates currently charged.

The internal construction of the project is scheduled for completion by mid-February 2018.

With the assistance of the environmental officer appointed to the project, we constantly assess our current situation to ensure that we mitigate the wasting of water.

The residents in the area will note that we have placed straw on the site to minimise the use of water for dust suppression.

As a company, we understand the current situation in Cape Town as we are involved in numerous drought relief projects to avoid Day Zero.

We have an obligation to do our part to safe water and still keep the food on the table for the hundreds of employees working for us on different projects.