Waste of precious water

Robert Winfield, Lakeside

On the morning of Wednesday November 7, a neighbour phoned at 6am to say that the water meter at the front of our house was leaking.

On checking, we found that the mains supply to the meter had become disconnected and that water was gushing out, washing away the soil and flooding the gutter to the nearest drain.

We called the published number for water emergencies and were told the leak had already been reported at 2am and that they could not say when someone would come to repair it.

From people passing by, we learnt that several of them had reported the problem and that they all showed distress at the massive waste of precious water. Despite the efforts of so many people, the repair team only arrived at 1pm, some 11 hours after the first report!

I estimate that at least 3 000 litres of water an hour flowed down the drain, making a total of at least 33 000 litres that went to waste.

Considering our recent drought and the water restrictions that are still in place, the council’s response is nothing short of an absolute disgrace. Those responsible should be dismissed from their posts with immediate effect.

* Xanthea Limberg, mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, responds:

According to the City’s records, the earliest report of this matter was at 6.11am on Wednesday November 7.

After investigating this case, we found the staff on standby duty that morning had not been notified about the leak by radio before normal working hours. They had been busy shutting down a burst water main in Constantia at the time the notification entered the system.

While any amount of water lost is regrettable, the City’s staff attend to about 800 water-and-sanitation complaints daily, and once in a while a fault might not be reported correctly.

The depot staff, once arriving for normal duty, dispatched all outstanding work received on the system overnight to the relevant work teams. The team that replaced the mentioned meter confirms that they first had to attend to a number of similar queries in the Retreat area before going to Wynand Street, where the meter was replaced at noon on November 7.

The team would have been unaware of the extent of this leak in comparison to other service request issues received prior to their arrival on this site.

The City has allocated R22 million to hire more staff for our first-line response teams, and about 75 more staff have been hired to improve our response time to water complaints. Since water restrictions came in, the City’s call centre and first-line response teams have been inundated with calls about water faults and leaks. On average, the City’s first-level response teams will attend to a service request which has been formally logged on the City’s system within two hours.

It must be kept in mind that Cape Town’s official overall water losses are at 16% and this includes losses through water theft and meter inaccuracies. The national average for overall water losses is 36%.

We thank the public for their diligence in reporting complaints and encourage all residents to do so as the City can only prioritise complaints based on
the information provided.