Water pressure woes in the Helderberg

Ulrich Teutenberg, Somerset West

On Tuesday January 23, at 4pm, the municipal water supply to the properties in Oxalis Street, Heldervue, Somerset West, ceased.

If it would have been due to a very common pipe failure, repair would have been effected within a few hours.

By 10.30pm, the municipal Emergency Call Centre confirmed that no outage due to pipe failure had been reported, and speculated that the loss of supply might be due to the Water and Sanitation Department’s programme to reduce the water pressure and assured me that by morning the matter would be resolved

At 6.30am the next morning, I reported the outage to the call centre by SMS, and by mid-morning I made enquiries at the Somerset West municipal offices.

Nothing was known of the problem, but a team was dispatched to our street.

Superintendent Richard Bowman advised he could do nothing, as the programme to reduce pressure in the system was controlled by Cape Town – by consultants – via computer. But he promised to send an urgent email, reporting the failure of the attempted pressure reduction.

By early afternoon nothing had happened, and my partner decided to enlist the help of Councillor Greg Peck.Soon afterwards, a different  local standby team came to investigate.

In their opinion, nothing was controlled from Cape Town, and suspected that the relevant pressure reduction valve (PRV) had shut down completely, and that somebody would be dispatched to attend to the matter within the hour.

By late afternoon Mr Peck was once more approached, and as a result Mr Bowman once more visited our street to assess the status and promised to contact his “boss” and hoped that action would be taken.

By 10am the next morning, Thursday January 25 – and 42 hours since the loss of service – Mr Bowman once more visited us, once more appealed to somebody higher up, and promised to contact me if he knew of any progress.

In the meantime, other property owners had made enquiries at the Somerset West& municipal office, and were told that the problem had been addressed, but one did not know when it would be corrected.

By now the outage had lasted 48 hours.

This is reminiscent of a circus. It is disturbing that someone in the water and sanitation department is allowed to fiddle with the supply system without there being quality assurance protocols in place to check and ensure that the action taken yields the desired results and does not backfire.

In my opinion, that is a gross failure of the department’s and/or the City’s management. 

If the department is unwilling to dispatch inspectors to monitor the success or otherwise at critical locations, they could have identified those locations and requested the owners by SMS to monitor the situation and report back.

After all, the City manages to advise by SMS three weeks in advance when to pay the monthly taxes.

And to top it all, the water and sanitation department seems to be unable or unwilling to rectify the matter.

I enjoy and admire your weekly contributions in the Bolander,and would appreciate it if you could shed some light onto the matter pertaining to the success or otherwise of the pressure reduction programme.

We all realise that Cape Town City council has a lot to worry about in connection with the water crisis, but the above is not conducive to obtaining co-operation of the tax payer.

This letter was forwarded to the City of Cape Town for comment on Saturday January 27 at 7.50am. Bolander has yet to receive a response.