Food trucks used to deliver water to informal settlements in Cape Town

07 April 2020 - 07:30 By Aron Hyman and esa alexander
Informal settlement residents carry water home from a water distribution truck.
Informal settlement residents carry water home from a water distribution truck.
Image: Esa Alexander

The City of Cape Town is using repurposed tankers from the food and beverage industry as water trucks under emergency regulations to provide water to its most water-constrained communities.

The water trucks, as the city refers to them, started delivering water to pockets of informal settlements - in some cases in areas where the municipality has been unable to lay out formal water networks because the settlements are built on sand dunes or railway tracks.

According to mayoral committee member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg, the city has distributed four million litres of water since the lockdown started nearly two weeks ago.

The city’s fleet of tankers continues to expand and by Monday stood at about 31 tankers.

Throughout the country, for residents without access to water in their homes - particularly those who often have to walk long distances to access water - it is a struggle to adhere to national regulations to halt the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus.

Limberg said the tankers are part of the government's effort to aid the city’s 200,000 residents of informal settlements.

“The city always strives to provide the highest possible level of access to water, but this is sometimes constrained by factors beyond its control, such as settlements being established on railway lines, on sand dunes or in a wetland. These settlements are generally relatively small pockets, separate from the established settlements,” she said.

The fleet costs the city R200,000 per day to operate.

Limberg said the tankers are only filled with clean drinking water and are made from materials suitable for carrying water.

“The different trucks have carrying capacity and distribute between 144,000 litres and 584,000 litres of water per day. They are filled at water treatment plants that supply drinking water to households and standpipes via the formal reticulation network,” she said.

“Alternatively, they extract water from standpipes at designated water depots and from fire hydrants close to the community.

“This water is routinely tested for compliance with SANS 241 standards [national drinking water quality criteria] and ad hoc testing is conducted on the contents of the trucks.”

She said residents collecting water have been asked by ground crews to adhere to physical distancing and sanitation measures while waiting in queues.

Truck visits were scheduled with the relevant ward councillors and other leadership structures, said Limberg.

“I would like to thank our dedicated teams who are doing everything possible to ensure the delivery of basic services during this time as part of the fight against the spread of Covid-19,” she said.

TimesLIVE caught up with one of these teams near the Makhaza informal settlement in Khayelitsha.

Resident Zoleka Rotho said she was filling up her plastic bottles and buckets for the fourth time since the city’s trucks started delivering water to the settlement following the start of the national lockdown on March 26.

“I appreciate the water that is always coming here ... It’s very essential for us. We are washing our hands and doing our necessary things with the water,” she said.