Thanks to one citizen’s dogged persistence, the City of Cape Town closed, and then re-opened its resort in Muizenberg after trying to find out where thousands of litres of water – enough to fill more than 267 bathtubs each day – is disappearing to.
The saga started in about 2009, so it’s not as though Marine Estate resident Ferdinand Versveld is not used to nagging. It was around about then that Mr Versveld saw water pooling outside Zandvlei Resort, and the water meter spinning. For two years he tried unsuccessfully to get the City to take his concerns seriously, sending them regular updates about the 60kl water used a day.
Finally, in 2012, the City acted, and various underground leaks were found – and fixed (“One man’s campaign stops water waste,” Echo, September 1 2011).
Mr Versveld hoped that would be the end of it, but soon after the City began publicising the dire state of our dam levels and calling on all citizens to cut water use or face soaring bills, Mr Versveld wandered down to the resort’s water meter and saw it was still spinning – a lot.
So, doing his civic duty, Mr Versveld contacted the relevant departments. He took, and sent, daily photographs of the meter reading. There were emails back and forth, but nothing much seemed to happen. So, he sent emails – with an ever-growing number of photos of the meter – to more people: the mayor, the water department, newspapers, the city ombudsman.
His list of people copied on emails grew longer and longer. Mr Versveld and Liz Meyer of Marine Neighbourhood Watch met with an official. The City told the Echo “no unusual consumption had been detected” (“Wasted water worry at Zandvlei resort,” Echo, August 2015). But obviously some leak was fixed, because the usage then dropped from 60kl to 10kl a day.
But Mr Versveld didn’t leave it at that. He kept an eye on the resort’s water meter – and, sure enough, water use went up. The resort over the past few months was using an average of 40kl a day.
On the day the Echo visited the resort, there were two campers and an unknown number of people in the chalets, which looked empty. In the half an hour it took the Echo to walk around, the resort used 1kl, according to its water meter reading. That’s more than this reporter’s average daily water usage of 0.6kl for a household of two.
Mr Versveld said it was not that he wanted to keep on monitoring the water consumption. He had better things to do.
“I am trying to say, guys, this is what is happening. I am looking for someone, somewhere to tell me the usage is excessive and why, or tell me that it is fine. Nobody can say they haven’t been told.
“It doesn’t make sense – where is the water going? Who is managing the water usage? Who is accountable or responsible?
“It’s not punitive. Tomorrow we could all be without water. We’re all losing.”
Soon after the Echo visited the resort, an A4 notice was stuck on the gate saying, “Closed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
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“The City’s sport, recreation and amenities department has done checks in the past following concerns of leaks,” said Belinda Walker, mayoral committee member for community services and special projects. “The resort’s management previously procured a water leak detection company to investigate whether there are any leaks.
“Following concerns raised by a resident, the City’s water and sanitation department is also investigating. Their investigation necessitated restricting the resort’s water supply to a trickle, which meant it had to be closed temporarily.”
Ernest Sonnenberg, mayoral committee member for utility services, said they suspected there were a series of sub-surface leaks in the internal water infrastructure.
Asked whether there was any oversight or management of City resources as it seemed the City only reacted to complaints from the public, Mr Sonneberg said the water and sanitation department, on receipt of the query, had taken steps (restricting the water supply) to determine whether therewas a leak.
Asked whether 40kl usage a day was normal, Mr Sonnenberg responded: “The City has closed the park and restricted water flow to the premises until such time as the integrity of the infrastructure has been determined.”