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Cape Town water warning: Time to boil the kettle and ge...

Our Burning Planet


Cape Town water warning: Time to boil the kettle and get out the bleach

Filling a glass of water on January 20, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. On Friday 5 August the City of Cape Town (CoCT) issued a precautionary notice for parts of the metro that is experiencing discoloured water as a result of a fault at one of its water treatment facilities.(Photo by Gallo Images/Misha Jordaan)

The City points fingers at rolling blackouts as it puts out a ‘boil discoloured water’ alert in some Cape Town suburbs, due to faulty treatment facilities

The City of Cape Town (CoCT) has issued a precautionary notice for parts of the metro that is experiencing discoloured water as a result of a fault at one of its water treatment facilities.

According to a statement, “ongoing load shedding has had a detrimental effect on the City of Cape Town’s water supply”, affecting water quality that has not been able to be treated due to a lack of energy to operate the water treatment facility. 

Faure Water Treatment Plant, the affected facility, has experienced a process control fault; a consequence of the current bouts of rolling blackouts. The City said the rolling blackouts had resulted in limited operational hours for sludge processing, and that a generator could not be used due to high energy demand to treat the water. 

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Waste, Councillor Zahid Badroodien told Daily Maverick that as per National Stand for Drinking Water legislation, the colour, turbidity (clarity) and iron standards of the water in affected areas did not meet the required specifications. Sampling is being conducted by the City and results are expected soon.

Councillor Badroodien said the treatment plant was stopped on Thursday, August 4 and that portable water was being supplied from the Blackheath Water Treatment Plant.

“The areas supplied by Blackheath cover that of Faure – hence Blackheath will have to increase its production to the network.  There should be no net shortage in the areas supplied by Blackheath.  Any shortfall in demand will be supplied from the Plattekloof and Tygerberg Reservoirs,” Badroodien said.


The affected areas are marked in red. Image: SUPPLIED

The affected areas include parts of the eastern, central and south suburbs of the city, and include the airport, Brandwacht, Chris Hani Park, Diep River, Enkanini, False Bay Park, Gugulethu, Hanover, Ilitha Park, Khayelitsha, Lansdowne, Mitchells Plain CBD, Nyanga, Onverwacht, Philippi, Rondevlei Park, Steenberg, Tafelsig, Umrhabulo Triangle, Victoria Mxenge, Weltevreden Valley and Zeekoevlei, among others. 

“Supply from the Faure water treatment plant has been stopped, and the affected areas of the network are being fed water from Blackheath Reservoir. Intensive water sampling and ongoing testing is being conducted,” CoCT said in a statement. 

It continued: “The City is working on resolving the problem as soon as possible, and would like to apologise for any inconvenience. The situation (water from Blackheath Reservoir) is anticipated to normalise the water quality in this part of the supply network, over the next few days.” 

In the meantime, residents have been advised to boil the discoloured water for at least a minute, allow it to cool and then store it in clean, sanitised and sealed containers. CoCT also suggested using household bleach such as JIK to disinfect the water, as per World Health Organisation recommendations of 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) of bleach to 25 litres of water; the water should be allowed to stand for at least 30 minutes before use. An alternative of water disinfection tablets was also recommended. 

This is not the first time that such an incidence has occurred in the City, Badroodien said. In July 2019, a similar incident occurred with a different root cause.

This, as the country struggles to meet its energy demand shortage, which has left the country experiencing a dark winter and some of the highest stages of rolling blackouts. The CoCT has been able to shield its residents from Stage 6 load shedding, supplementing electricity so residents experience Stage 4 through its Steenbras Hydro Pump Station. 

Read in Daily Maverick: How the City of Cape Town managed to avoid Stage 6 load shedding thanks to hydroelectric scheme

The City said in the statement that rolling blackouts had a detrimental effect on its operation, which was why it was urgently pushing the move away from Eskom reliance. It added that CoCT is looking to move away from Eskom, to also lower electricity prices and end rolling blackouts in Cape Town. 

“The City is also continuing to build on its programme of ending load shedding over time by focusing on energy diversification to enhance security of supply with the City’s own build projects, small-scale embedded generation programmes of buying excess power from qualifying customers, wheeling and independent power producer programmes.” DM/OBP

Daily Maverick did not receive a response from the CoCT at the time of publication. This article will be updated with the comments once received. 

A full list of the affected areas: 

Admirals Park, Airport, Anchorage Park, Antilles/ Cayman Beach, Barnet Molokwana Corner, Beacon Valley, Bell Glen, Bongani, Brandwacht, Broadlands, Broadlands ark, Broadlands Village, Chris Hani park, Colorado Park, Crossroads, Corydon Olive Estate, De Velde, Deaconville, Deepfreeze, Diep River, Dobson, Dreamworld, Driftsands, Eagle Park, Eastridge, Ekhuphumleni, Elfindale, Endlovini, Enkanini, Eyethu, Fairview Golf Estate, False Bay Coastal Park, Firgrove, Firgrove rural, Forest Village, George Park, Goedehoop, Good Hope, Gordon Heights, Gordon’s Bay, Gordon’s Bay Ext 12, Gordon’s Bay Village, Gordon’s Strand Estate, Graceland, Grassy Park, Greenways, Gugulethu, Hanover Park, Harare, Harbour Island, Harmony Village, Heartland, Beach Road Precinct, Heartland Historic Precinct, Heathfield, Helderberg Park, Highlands Village, Hyde Park, Ikwezi Park, Ilitha Park, Khaya, Khayalitsha, Kuyasa, Lakeside, Lansdowne, Lavender Hill, Lentegeur, Lotus River, Macassar, Macassar Beach, Macassar Village, Mall Interchange, Mandela Park, Manenberg, Mitchells Plain CBD, Monwabisi, Morgans Village, Mountainside, Mountainside Estate, Mountainside Ext 2, Muizenberg, Mxolosi Phetani, New Macassar, New Scheme, New Woodlands, Newfields, Nonqubela, Nyanga, Onverwacht – Gordons Bay, Onverwacht – The Strand, Ottery, Parkwood, Peaock Close, Pelikan Heights, Pelikan Park, Philippi, Philippi Park, Pinati Estate, Plumbstead, Portland, Protea Park – Gordon’s Bay, Retreat, Riverside, Rocklands, Rondevlei Park, Sabata Dalindyebo Square, Sand Industria, Sandvlei, Sea Breeze Park, Seawinds, Sercor Park, Silvertown – Khayelitsha, Sitari Country Estate, Smartie Town, Southfield, Southfork, St James, Steenberg, Strand, Strand Golf Club, Strandfontein, Tafelsig, Temporance Town, Thembokwezi, Twin Palms, Umrhabulo Triangle, Victoria Mxenge, Vrygrond, Weltevreden Valley, Westgage, Westridge- Mitchells Plain, Wetton, Wildwood, Wolfgat Nature Reserve, Woodlands and Zeekoevlei. DM/OBP


Absa OBP

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  • As a retired Professor of Water Management and ex-Director of Umgeni Water’s Scientific Services Division with a considerable knowledge of water treatment, I would like a full explanation of how a gravity fed system with presumably a final sand filtration and chlorine disinfection facility could produce “dirty” water due to a loss of power – unless, 0f course, the filters could not be backwashed and became overloaded – in any case the public deserves a full explanation! – Professor Bill Richards

    • Well said Prof. In addition, ask any Milnerton resident who has had to live with the stench and polluted lad
      goon for over four years now, it is not only the Faure treatment plant that the City cannot seem to manage properly!

  • Let’s face it, this is not a full scale water emergency – unlike many of the regions in KZN and Eastern Cape that have extremely poor water quality, and at that only when they do, in fact, have water. Yet DM persists with its biased focus on Western Cape issues – as if to try and pull the credibility of the management of this province down. I guess the issue of serious water contamination in KZN following the riots (which still persist today, more than a year on) just isn’t news anymore. The fact that Qbertha is at zero water point is just so last month’s news.

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