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The health of Cape Town’s urban waterways is everyone’s business<p>​</p><p>The findings of the City’s comprehensive report, ‘Water Quality of Rivers and Open Waterbodies in the City of Cape Town: Status and historical trends with a focus on the period April 2015 to March 2020’ reveal that while some of our urban river catchments are in a relatively good or near-natural state,  six catchments face serious challenges. In making this report publicly available, as well as a less technical summary booklet, the City hopes to equip residents with a holistic perspective of the state of our waterbodies, and commits to full transparency as to possible causes of pollution that need to be addressed from within the administration. However, it is also a call to action, as residents have a key role to play in halting the deterioration of these resources, and helping us transition into a water sensitive city. This is a key aspect of the City’s vision, as stated in its Water Strategy – our shared water future.</p><p>A water sensitive city of the future is a place where people want to live and work. It is a place where a healthy natural environment enables a range of social, ecological, health and economic benefits. It is a city that consists of water sensitive communities where citizens have the knowledge and desire to make wise choices about water, are actively engaged in decision-making, and practice informed, responsible habits that protect water related infrastructure.</p><p>The current report includes an analysis of trends within all available historic water quality data, this detailed technical analysis and interpretation of inland water quality was undertaken by independent specialists in the freshwater ecology field.</p><p>Over 120 sites are currently monitored as part of the City’s inland water quality monitoring network  in various rivers, canals, retention ponds, estuaries and wetlands with monthly collection of water samples from these systems for analysis by the City’s water quality testing laboratories. A range of chemical, algal and bacterial constituents are measured.</p><p>Before exploring key findings, it is important to keep in mind that samples collected from a river or waterbody only reflect the state of water quality at the time of sampling, and at the specific location where the sample was collected. Water quality can vary drastically from day to day, or even within meters of the sample site. Many sample sites are also specifically located near possible pollution sources to assess the ongoing impact of these sources. </p><p><strong>Key findings, based on the independent consultant analysis, are as follows:</strong></p><ul><li><div>As is typical in urban environments, especially in developing countries, the state of many of Cape Town’s urban waterways is generally poor due to urbanisation challenges such as contaminated run-off from industrial, commercial and residential (both formal and informal) old and newly developed areas, illicit and/or irresponsible disposal of liquid and solid waste, sewage overflows or spills from the sewage reticulation network or pump stations. Challenges are specifically severe in the following catchments:</div></li></ul><p> Diep River (Milnerton Lagoon)<br> Soet River<br> Salt River<br> Kuils/Eerste Rivers<br> Hout Bay River<br> Big and Little Lotus rivers (Zeekoevlei)</p><ul><li>Cape Town’s five main recreational waterbodies are Zandvlei, Zeekoevlei, Rietvlei, Milnerton Lagoon and Princess Vlei. With the exception of Milnerton Lagoon, they are generally within the recommended limits for intermediate contact recreation (wading, canoeing, sailing, wind-surfing, water-skiing), despite often high levels of E. coli in the rivers and channels that feed them.</li><li>Elevated nutrient levels, particularly phosphorus, remains problematic in our inland aquatic ecosystems. Nutrient enrichment makes receiving waterbodies, such as vleis, vulnerable to excessive plant/algal growth, which can lead to fish kills. </li><li>The risk of unacceptable levels of E. coli is highest in Milnerton Lagoon, which has been subject to periodic and, at times, prolonged contamination. This indicates exposure to untreated sewage, assumed to derive mainly from the large informal and backyard-dominated settlements in the catchment upstream (such as Dunoon and Joe Slovo). Sewage overflows and spills from the sewage reticulation network and pump stations is also a contributing factor. Occasionally, compromised final effluent discharged from the Potsdam WWTW may also affect water quality in the system, but operational and capital improvements are addressing this, and for a number of months now the plant has been producing very good quality effluent. Agricultural activity outside the City’s boundaries also has an effect. </li></ul><p><strong>Going forward, the City’s action plan includes the following: </strong></p><ul><li><div>The Inland Water Quality Report will be published annually. The current report represents a baseline inclusive of all available historic data. Future reports which will make use of similar constituents and water quality thresholds will focus on the preceding year’s data within the context of the previous 5 years. </div></li><li><div>The Water Quality Improvement Programmes and its associated Pollution Abatement Plans are being developed and implemented to address pollution and poor water quality at a river catchment (or sub-catchment) scale. This includes monitoring of capital improvements at WWTW plants, infrastructure audits, improved sewer spill response times and proactive maintenance of sewage infrastructure, river maintenance programme implementation, litter-boom/river warden project partnerships, as well as engagement with catchment forums and other interest groups.</div></li><li><div>Major upgrades worth R4,5 billion are taking place at various Wastewater Treatment Works until 2025. These upgrades include Potsdam WWTW.</div></li><li><div>Continue to support partners in the City’s Human Settlements Directorate and City Planning to address urbanisation challenges such as unlawful occupations. <br>Various unlawful land occupations have occurred along the catchment areas, on both public and private land, particularly during the national lockdown in particular where regulations have inhibited measures for landowners to fully protect property from illegal occupation. </div></li></ul><p>We have particularly seen large-scale, organised unlawful occupations and so-called ‘shack farming’ syndicates come to the fore. The City continues to do everything in its power to prevent further illegal occupation of its land in the area.<br>The City always strives to provide the highest possible basic services ratio in informal settlements, but there are legal and logistical constrains to rolling out services to settlements formed following land invasions.</p><p>The City urges all landowners to take appropriate steps to try and prevent the illegal occupation of their land, such as active monitoring, fencing and security measures. </p><ul><li>Enhance public education and awareness programmes such as “Bin It, Don’t Block It” (see the link here) because illegal dumping into the sewer system, stormwater network and our waterways is an ongoing concern, which can be prevented. Illegal dumping into the system is the primary cause of blockages and pump station failures, which result in overflows which drain into the stormwater system and into water bodies. Property owners/ residents should also not connect their gutters to direct rain into the sewer system which contributes to sewer overflows, or allow sewer pipes to flow into the stormwater system which pollutes our waterways.</li><li>By-law enforcement teams will continue to monitor hot spot areas and will take action against those who contribute to pollution through illicit discharges, sewer blockages or dumping litter, rubble and other forms of solid waste into Cape Town’s sewer and stormwater systems. During 2020, the City’s Water and Sanitation Department cleared approximately 122 000 sewer blockages across Cape Town, the primary cause of which were misuse of the system. More than R350 million was spent on efforts to address this chronic – yet largely avoidable – problem.</li><li> Continue to clear illegal dumping, which is a huge problem across the city. The City budgets approximately R110 to R120 million for the clearing of illegal dumping hotspots each year to clear approximately 2 900 large dumping hotspots across Cape Town. If residents have any recyclables, electronics, garage waste and builder’s rubble that they need to dispose of, please make use of the City's drop-off facilities.</li></ul><p>‘The Inland Water Quality report, along with the summary booklet, are published to promote transparency and as a call to action. On the City’s side, efforts to address water pollution are being intensified. We have stepped up the upgrade of wastewater treatment works and are constantly working to reduce sewer overflows, improve solid waste collection and cleansing, and identify and prosecute offenders. However, we can only achieve our goal in partnership with Cape Town’s residents. </p><p>‘All of us, as residents, contribute to the pollution of Cape Town’s rivers through our daily activities of keeping clean, as well as through what we buy, throw away, and pour or flush into the sewer or stormwater systems. The data shows that there is a lot of work to be done before we can realise our goal of becoming a city in which rivers, canals and streams are accessible, inclusive and safe to use. But we have now begun, and it is hoped that residents will gain greater insight by engaging with the report and join the effort to turn the tide on pollution,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Waste, Alderman Xanthea Limberg.</p><p> </p><p><strong>End</strong><br></p>2021-02-08T22:00:00ZGP0|#1d539e44-7c8c-4646-887d-386dc1d95d70;L0|#01d539e44-7c8c-4646-887d-386dc1d95d70|City news;GTSet|#62efe227-07aa-45e7-944c-ceebacca891dGP0|#a56018a2-0c7a-4055-af9c-df4728adb384;L0|#0a56018a2-0c7a-4055-af9c-df4728adb384|water and waste;GTSet|#2e3de6c1-9951-4747-8f53-470629a399bb;GP0|#701faa20-450e-444a-a0fd-ec8ec3f57e06;L0|#0701faa20-450e-444a-a0fd-ec8ec3f57e06|water quality10

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