Posh suburbs high and dry as Cape wilts

Fire-prone mountain homes getting just a trickle from their taps

05 November 2017 - 00:00 By BOBBY JORDAN

It costs a king's ransom in Cape Town to get a view of the water, but don't expect any out of the taps.
That's the new downside of the high life for affluent residents fortunate enough to own homes on the slopes of Table Mountain.
Reduced water pressure as a result of emergency rationing was causing temporary cut-offs, particularly in higher-lying suburbs, ratepayers' organisations said this week.
It is yet another blow for water-stressed residents already being squeezed by city officials to reduce consumption to 87 litres per person per day.This week the Sunday Times established that:
• In addition to causing temporary cut-offs, reduced water pressure is putting properties at risk of fire damage. On Wednesday, firefighters had to rely on truck-delivered water to douse a factory blaze due to rationing in the Killarney Gardens area;
• Panic is driving up demand for well points and boreholes, particularly among those who can afford the cost of drilling;
• City contractors have begun digging up people's driveways to install water restriction devices - but are under fire for not always checking the number of occupants to determine whether usage is excessive; and
• Rationing is hitting tourism, with reports of low bookings ahead of the holidays.
Brandon Golding, ward councillor for the steeply sloping suburbs of Vredehoek, Tamboerskloof and Bo-Kaap, said water cut-offs were linked to pressure management.
"In certain instances where pressure has been dialled back they haven't got it right and some residents have been cut off," Golding said. "It usually only lasts for a few hours."Chris Rousseau of the Constantia Ratepayers and Residents Association said there had been water cut-offs in higher-lying areas of the suburb and he had received reports of solar water heaters bursting.
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said: "The city appeals to those in lower-lying areas to reduce usage to assist in terms of outages in the higher-lying areas."
One Constantia resident accused the city council of heavy-handed tactics after workers started digging up his driveway for using 20% more than his quota. "Today private contractors employed by the city arrived at our property unannounced ... and began to dig up our driveway to place a restrictor on our property," he said on social media.
Many residents have turned to well points and boreholes. "We are fully booked right through to the end of February," said Gabby de Wet from De Wet's Wellpoints and Boreholes. But even borehole users are being urged to use water sparingly. "We are way past green lawns and pretty petunias," she said.
A case in point is Nettleton Road, overlooking Clifton, possibly Cape Town's premier address, where the ultra-wealthy increasingly rely on boreholes. Homeowner Marco Wentzel, who is living off-site while renovating, said he and his immediate neighbour had boreholes.
Chris Willemse, chairman of the Camps Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association, said: "The amount of boreholes going into Camps Bay is just a joke."
While Camps Bay was fortunate to have water off the mountain, an excessive number of boreholes in flatter areas such as Bloubergstrand could lead to saline contamination of the freshwater supply, he said. "Once the saline water has moved inland, that's it for generations," Willemse said.
Atlantic Seaboard estate agent Lance Cohen, from Seeff Properties, said the water crisis had caused a dip in holiday rentals. "Imagine spending all that money [to rent a holiday home] and then being told, 'Sorry, we can't fill your swimming pool'," he said.
Tourists will still be able to drown their sorrows, though, because the crisis will not affect South African Breweries' Newlands operation. Water for the beer made there comes mainly from a spring and boreholes.
Manager John Stenslunde said the plant had reduced its water consumption by 20% in the past five years. He said it took 2.7 litres of water to make a litre of beer, and there were no signs of the spring running dry...

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