Leak wastes thousands of litres of water

The water meter at the Zandvlei Caravan Park while it was leaking.

A water leak which has intermittently since 2009 been laying waste to thousands of litres of water at Zandvlei Caravan Park, has started once again.

Residents of Marine Estate, Ferdinand and Janine Versfeld, are beyond irate at the recurrence of this leak in these drought-stricken days.

On Sunday February 4, Ms Versfeld wrote to the City. She said that the water meter belonging to the caravan park was once again awash in water; the grass around it lush. She said that since November last year, the meter showed an average of 4kl of water used every day.

“Action needs to be taken urgently to prevent this getting out of hand. Between 2009 and 2016, the average was 25kl per day and as high 60kl a day,” she wrote.

In her first letter to the City she said that perhaps the current crisis would result in the caravan park’s water pipes being replaced. “Perhaps the caravan park and its picnic sites should be shut and the water turned off until water is no longer a luxury in Cape Town,” she suggested.

Remarkably: in the midst of what the City of Cape Town is calling the worst drought in 100 years, the City had not responded to the letter, nor the leak, by Wednesday February 7.

Ms Versfeld wrote again, at 9.13am. “The meter is still under water. And 12kl were used on Monday and Tuesday this week: 6 000 litres of water a day,” she stressed.

The False Bay Echo sent both the City and ward councillor Aimee Khul an official media enquiry on the morning of Wednesday, February 7. Ms Khul sent an enquiry to David Jenliffe at 9.36am on Wednesday morning asking for feedback on the resident’s claims that 6 000 litres of water a day was leaking from pipes belonging to the resort. The City’s water inspectors did make it out to the site, but were then sent on to another situation in Fish Hoek where there was a leak which was considered to be worse than the Zandvlei one.

To date, the City has not responded to the False Bay Echo’s enquiries about the details of the leak in Fish Hoek. On Thursday, February 8, the City returned and installed a new water meter at the caravan park.

That should have been the end of the saga. However, the Versfelds monitored the new meter and reported that this new meter’s reading was showing 49m3 or 49kl. Despite being sent the media enquiry on Wednesday February 7, on Monday February 12, the City informed the Echo that they would miss the deadline to comment; as they had not received answers from the relevant departments. Another email to ward councillor Khul garnered a response from her office saying she was in caucus, with a suggestion that the False Bay Echo contact Dave Jenliffe, which was immediately done; with the explanation that no answers from the City media office were forthcoming. Mr Jenliffe’s response was only to say that the media office was meant to answer these questions.

A visit to the Zandvlei Caravan Park led to some answers. Astrid Trimm, principal facility officer of recreation and parks at the Zandvlei Resort, was on hand.

Ms Trimm has only been at the resort since 2015 and said that although she is aware that the situation has a history she can’t speak about what happened before she arrived. Ms Trimm said that the resort itself has introduced all the stringent water saving procedures they can.

Only two toilets and showers are operational in their men’s and women’s ablution blocks and the water pressure is down to a trickle. Taps have been removed from the bathrooms and hand sanitisers put in place.

Laundry is only done before guests arrive, once a week. Notices for two- minute showers are in place and guests are told about the water crisis.

Ms Trimm says that the leak has been fixed, and a new water meter has been installed. When asked about the current high water reading on the new meter, she said that she would investigate that further.

Ms Trimm said while she understands that the water leak situation has a history, she would love to have a formal investigation into all resorts to compare the water usage, and for the resorts to have some sort of standard to work to. “We can’t really be judged on residential usage: our usage depends on our visitors and of course we have people who live on the land too,” she said.

Ms Trimm said that to her knowledge this is the second time that the water meter has been replaced since 2015. “It can be complex because this land is divided into different management sections.

“One part is parks, another part is sport, another part is nature reserve. So we don’t actually have jurisdiction over our water meter. There is another water meter down the road which is not ours and is definitely not read: it has a bee hive in it,” she said.

The False Bay Echo investigated and can confirm there is indeed a very busy bee hive; ensconced in this water meter.

To date the City has not answered the False Bay Echo’s questions; which included what exactly the City has done to fix the leak, how many times repairs have been effected and what sort of repairs were done.

We asked why, if the leak continues, has the deeper issue not been uncovered and permanently fixed? We asked if the City actually knows what the cause is, and if not (by now) why not? We asked what the City’s plan of action is now, to create a permanent solution to the issue. We also asked how the City can, in all honesty and with a clear conscience, appeal to individual consumers to manage their water consumption while thousands of litres of clean drinking water a day leak from a spot that has been well documented since 2009.

We also asked for details of the Fish Hoek leak, what the City’s water restrictions were for resorts across the peninsula, as well as what the daily water usage for resorts is expected to be, and how this is monitored.