Water shortage. Picture: Antoine de Ras
Cape Town – While the City of Cape Town has been pleading with residents to save water because of a severe drought, it has taken several years to fix a leak at the Newlands reservoir, leading to the loss of tens of thousands of litres of water.

Last month the city imposed level 4 restrictions, which severely restrict the use of water to drinking, cooking and washing.

However, it has emerged that the Newlands upper reservoir, which has a water-holding capacity of about 132 million litres, has been leaking for several years.

During an unannounced recent visit to the reservoir by the leader of the ANC in the City of Cape Town, Xolani Sotashe, and the media, an official who did not want to be named said the “intermittent” leak was thought to have started at a “certain place” but a “patch of wet soil” was found elsewhere, which suggested it could have been another source.

Water was seen gushing out of the newly installed 100mm PVC pipe.

Sources, who did not want to be named, reckon the water loss was at a rate of about 4 to 5 litres per second. This meant the city could be losing more than 400000 litres of water a day.

A pipe had been installed to re-direct the purified, drinkable water to a channel which would allow the water to eventually go underground because it was becoming a nuisance to houses at the bottom of the reservoir.

However, just a few days before the June 2 visit, a few Jojo tanks, each with a capacity to hold 10000 litres of water, were installed to recover the water.

The tanks overflow to the Wynberg lower reservoir through a pipeline which is gravity fed. This recovery system was completed in the second week of June this year.

The City of Cape Town confirmed it had been aware of the leak and was in the process of designing a system to recover the water and was busy with its installation.

But this is not the only leak that has cost taxpayers.

Accoding to Sotashe, a 1.2m-diameter pressurised water pipe leak along the R45 road in Jamestown was also costing taxpayers a lot of money. For almost more than a year there appeared to be no plan in place to fix it.

The city claimed it had been made aware of the leak only six to seven weeks before making arrangements to fix it. It said adjustments had been made to ensure that, while repair work was being done, the effect on water supply would be minimal. The repairs started on May 30.

Sotashe accused the city of underspending a government grant, saying this money could have been used in mitigating some of the challenges it was faced with.

Weekend Argus Sunday