Load shedding sparks call for curbs on water use

The City is urging residents to use water sparingly and only to flush toilets when necessary during load shedding.

Heavy bouts of load shedding are straining municipal sewage and water pumps and treatment plants, and the City is urging the public to use less water to prevent supplies from being cut to high-lying areas, including the far south from Simon’s Town to Murdoch Valley.

The appeal followed the move to Stage 6 load-shedding, which can mean up to 10 hours without electricity a day for Capetonians.

The City said it was “unable to generate enough reserves to protect its customers from a stage or two of load shedding”.

Acting mayoral committee member for water and sanitation Siseko Mbandezi said reservoirs could not fill up fast enough due to the prolonged periods of load shedding.

Using less water, he said, would help deal with operational challenges and maintain the water supply to reservoirs in areas across Cape Town, especially high-lying areas that rely on pumping stations.

Those areas, he said, were at a higher risk of low or no water pressure during high stages of load shedding.

Residents should only flush toilets and do washing when really necessary during prolonged higher stages of load shedding because that would put less pressure on the pumps and wastewater treatment plants that needed electricity to operate, Mr Mbandezi said.

The City has blamed prolonged load shedding for the closure of several far south beaches due to sewage spills. Muizenberg Beach was closed from Monday December 12 to Friday December 16 (“Muizenberg Beach reopened to public after sewage spill,” Echo December 21); Fish Hoek Beach was closed from Wednesday January 2 to Wednesday January 4 and the beach section between the tidal pools in Kalk Bay and Dalebrook, including the tidal pools, was closed from Saturday January 8. The tidal pools were reopened on Monday January 9, but the beach remained closed until Friday January 13 (“Beach closures hurting tourism, says guide,” Echo, January 12).

Sewer pump stations had “very sensitive equipment” that was not meant to lose power frequently, but the current rate of load shedding was damaging the equipment and causing spills, said Mr Mbandezi, adding that the stations’ holding capacity for sewage was not designed for multiple and prolonged power outages.

Power surges could also cause equipment to trip, he said.

The City had now installed generators at all wastewater treatment plants and high-priority sewer pump stations; maintenance staff were on standby to use mobile pumps and sewer suction tankers to reduce overflows; and all pump stations were fitted with devices to send alerts when there was a malfunction, he said.

To report sewage spills and related problems, WhatsApp 060 018 1505, email water@capetown.gov.za, SMS 31373 , call 0860 103 089 or visit capetown.gov.za/servicerequests.