Snap water wasters and report them

Russell Deutschmann, Bergvliet

In response to your article (“City builds on water strategy”, Bulletin June 29) in respect of the water restrictions, we are told to control our water usage and now threatened with fines and/or jail time. We have been asked to be vigilant and report any water wastage.

About two months ago, when the council started with the upgrade of the pavements (walkways and bicycle lane) at the top end of Ladies Mile Road I initially approached the driver of the water truck. I addressed him with my concerns, that after he had filled up the tank at a fire hydrant, the valve on the tanker still seemed to be open and leaking badly, wasting water as he drove along the road. He confirmed that it was indeed closed and that wear and tear unfortunately stopped it from sealing properly.

Further to this, both my daughter and I have raised further concerns of water wastage by those who work on the pavements. For weeks they have been using two fire hydrants and often leave the tap inserted into the hydrant, while it too badly leaked water into the gutter and down into the drain, not even removing it when not in use. When addressed regarding this, they were aloof in their response and frankly gave the idea that they did not really care. Again, the excuse given was that the equipment is old and worn, but no one thought to remove it when not in use, thus ensuring minimal water wastage.

When asked where the foreman was, I was informed that he does not work on site and that he only comes in the mornings and evenings. I asked them to inform him that I wished to speak to him and gave them my address details, but alas I am still waiting for his visit.

It seems that either he is not concerned or that the message was not given to him. They were addressed on no less than three occasions, and even the City of Cape Town was contacted during this time.

Soon after this, we found the fire hydrant, to the right of our driveway leaking after years of inactivity, with no explanation as to why this happened all of a sudden. This was sorted out within 12 hours of my daughter lodging a query, however, the very next week the same issue arose. This time, however, we drew the conclusion that the same persons using the fire hydrant as mentioned in the paragraph above, were attempting to use this one too, as we saw one of them walking away from that direction with the tap in hand and a stream of water following him. Again the leak was reported to the City of Cape Town, only to be told that the water pouring from the fire hydrant was not fresh water but rather recycled water, and therefore not to be too concerned about this. Shocking but true.

With my frustration growing at the lack of action in stopping this horrendous water wastage, I decided to address my concerns further up the line. My first point of contact was the mayor’s office, only to be advised by them that someone will contact me in due course. The same applied when I contacted the city manager. All they actually did was advise me that the following persons would contact me: Peter Flowers,
David Genleft and Delin First; all of whom seem to be missing in action, as I am yet to be contacted by any one of them.

My next point of call was the offices of the DA,who advised me that councillor Vantie Limbert, should be able to assist me further. I did not have the privilege to speak to her but her assistant documented my complaint and advised that someone would contact me urgently. I had to call their office again, as lo and behold, it seems that the entire office too was missing in action besides the assistant.

The City Council have been aware of the dire water situation for a while. The drought did not start overnight. Would it not seem wiser to delay the restructuring / improvements of the pavements until there is sufficient water to perform these upgrades.

While I do understand that improvements need to be done from time to time, thought should be given to the fact that we are running out of water. Where does the City Council’s priorities lie?

Improved pavements and bicycle lanes will not fill my taps with water when there is none available to any of us. I will not accept the excuse that non-potable water is used, as my email above is proof that fresh water has been wasted during this entire process, very precious fresh water indeed.

My question is that if the City Council has the power to fine the public for wasting water, then they have the power to fine one of their own for the same infringement, so then why is this not happening? I feel that while I stand crying over the water running down the street, the City Council has merely handed me a tissue, all the while standing next to me watching it happen …

We hear horror stories on a daily basis on the lack of action by the City Council in addressing the constant issues about water wastage due to damaged water pipes, faulty taps and arrogant wastage on their own ground.

Water is costing us more, even as we use less thereof, the same applies to electricity too – trying our best to conserve both resources as best we can. We hear daily of the public needing to be held accountable for water wastage. Whom is being held accountable for the water wasted due to either the negligence of the City Council employees; or due to the lack of attention to the ageing water system in our areas?

In conclusion, the reason for my email to you is a plea for help to get answers to my questions as to whom needs to be fined for the blatant wastage of water as mentioned above, and to see if those persons from the mayor’s office and city manager’s office are indeed around andable to respond to ordinary Joe Public.

Who else can we approach to see action taken against the very people who preach the need of saving water but don’t themselves act on this?

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

The Water Inspectorate visited the site for an inspection, but found that work had been suspended pending a review of the contractor’s exemption.

If residents observe any contravention of the water restrictions, we urge them to
please take photos and report this to water@capetown.gov.za so that a Section 56 admission of guilt fine can be issued. The more evidence provided, the more effective enforcement can be. Should repeat or serious offences be proven, a Section 54 notice to appear in court will be issued, at which point the maximum fine increases to R10 000 or even possible jail time for serious or repeat offences.

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