City plans rehab of waterways

The Liveable Urban Waterways (LUW) programme will be piloted in various water bodies in the Sand River catchment, of which Zandvlei is part, and feeds into False Bay.

The City is holding a series of presentations across the southern suburbs this week to introduce the public to a programme that aims to improve the conditions of Cape Town’s waterways.

Liveable Urban Waterways (LUW) programme will be piloted in various water bodies in the Sand River catchment, of which Zandvlei is part.

The City has budgeted R50 million for five LUW projects to reduce the risk of flooding and improve ecosystem health, public access to the waterways, and Zandvlei’s water quality, according to Ian Neilsen, chairman of the City’ water and sanitation portfolio committee.

Additional funding from the governments of France, Germany and the UK had also been secured, he said.

The City’s head of stormwater and catchment management, Andrew McDonald, said the programme was the start of a long-term plan to rehabilitate the 21 catchment areas in greater Cape Town so it could become a water-sensitive city with acceptable water quality, a functioning ecology, and water connecting communities by shared use and enjoyment.

Studies, he said, had led them to focus on waterway rehabilitation projects in five areas: Grootboschkloof River; Keyser River between Military and Tokai Main roads; Spaanschemat and Prinskasteel rivers; Westlake River; and the confluence of the Sand River and Langevlei canal, at Coniston Park.

The latter, he said, had been identified by mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis as a top-priority area, and it would be repurposed to create a wetland and riparian zones and space for communities to interact with nature.

He said the area west of Westlake River, near Pollsmoor prison, would prove challenging because of overflowing sewers from the growing population there and illegal dumping, but solving those problems could improve conditions downstream.

A meeting at the Alphen Centre on Monday focused on the Grootboschkloof, Keyser and Spaanschemat rivers, and the meeting at the Lookout at Zandvlei, on Tuesday, focused on the Keyser River, Sand River and Langevlei canal. A further meeting was set to take place yesterday, Wednesday July 6, at Westlake Community Centre, to focus on the Westlake River.

“We will host co-design workshops from August 22 to 26 and presentations of conceptual plans for comment in October. It has to be a grassroots approach to connect communities up and downstream,” said Mr McDonald.

There would be no concrete canals, and gabions would only be used when necessary and designed to blend in with nature, he said.

During the meeting on Monday, Jerri Higgs, who has lived in Tokai for 48 years, voiced concern about swimming-pool backwash, petrol from lawn mowers and other pollutants going into the waterways.

She also asked that gabions be removed, saying they prevented natural flooding. Ms Higgs is part of the Tokai Baboon Action Group and an advocate for wildlife corridors for creatures to move from the mountains to the sea.

Henk Egberink, of Kenilworth and member of TreeKeepers, said the City should rather be concentrating on keeping groundwater on properties and looking at what to do with this water rather than it running into the sea.

A resident asked whether SANParks was involved in the project to which Mr McDonald said they had been invited to everything. “It is their catchment area after all.”

Alistair Lee, of Muizenberg, who works in the City’s water and sanitation directorate, said he had been watching the growing number of informal settlements springing up in stormwater ponds and along waterways. He said they could not be removed under present legislation and were a cause of pollution in those waterways.

Mr McDonald said it would be a long time until the rivers were swimmable and some stretches would never be right, but a start had to be made.

To register as an interested party, email

The City is holding a series of presentations, including this one at the Alphen Centre on Monday, on a programme to rehabilitate Cape Town’s waterways.
Ian Neilsen, chairman of the City’ water and sanitation portfolio committee, said R50m had been allocated from the City’s budget for its Liveable Urban Waterways project.
A map, supplied by the City, which shows Sand River catchment tributaries leading to Zandvlei.
The Keyser River flows under a bridge in Tokai Road, Retreat and runs south towards Zandvlei.
The Keyser River in Vans Road near Blue Route mall.
Tokai residents looking at the littered Keyser River in Vans Road.
Overflowing sewers and illegal dumping plague the Westlake River.