Water and sanitation reflects on non-stop efforts to navigate recent rains

21 Jun 2022 in Where We Govern

Over the past week, heavy rains saw dams supplying Cape Town increase by 6,9% to 71,2%. During this rainfall period, the City’s Water and Sanitation teams were working non-stop to proactively reduce sewer overflows and ensure our river system is able to manage the increase stormwater entering our channels to reduce flood risk. Teams also responded to service requests such as clearing blocked sewer pipes city wide.

During last week’s rain on 14 to 15 June, the Water and Sanitation Directorate noted a spike in service requests, recording approximately 1 900 requests over this two-day period relating to sewer overflows and other services from various areas across the city. Communities with the largest number of service requests included Philippi, Lotus River, Strand, Pinelands, Bonteheuwel, Bishop Lavis and Gugulethu each logging between about 40 to 130 service requests. It is recorded that the most common cause of overflows in these areas were foreign objects, fats, rags, and overloading due to stormwater ingress into the sewer network.

‘The recent rain resulted in the dams supplying Cape Town filling quickly. This past week alone has seen an increase of 6,9% in our dam levels, compared to 0,4% the previous week. Today our dam levels are at 71,2%, which has increased from 64,3% last week. Last year this time, our dam levels were 74,6%.

‘With this increased rain, came sewer and flooding challenges that, as a City, we needed to navigate and relieve affected communities.

‘Over this past week, the sewer reticulation teams worked non-stop to proactively and reactively clear blocked sewer pipes in various areas to ensure that the network is clear to manage the increased rain that enters it via open manholes where sewer drain covers have been stolen or are broken, as well as via illegal rainwater connections on residents’ properties. Some 70 crews made up of blockage clearing, jet machine, combination unit and vacuum tanker teams were on the ground. Our pump stations were also monitored closely and we are still continuing to do so.

‘Our Catchment Stormwater and River Management (CRSM) teams were also busy cleaning and unblocking litter traps/booms, canals, culverts and ponds. CRSM also has teams on standby for emergency call outs during the heavy rains.

‘Our Informal Settlements Basic Services team, in consultation with Disaster Risk Management and Human Settlements, were also assisting flood-affected areas with access to clean water by deploying water tankers as well as temporary ablution facilities according to notifications received. Several of these areas are located in stormwater catchment ponds or wetlands.

‘Overall, thank you to our residents for their understanding and we sincerely regret any inconvenience caused during this time while we were aiming to attend to service requests in the shortest timeframe possible.

‘Residents are assured the Water and Sanitation team is doing extensive proactive work in various areas across the city to help reduce sewer overflows and ensure that the river system is clear of excess vegetation, silt and litter to accommodate increased flow due to rainwater. Residents can also help the City prevent sewers from overflowing into streets this winter by using some basic tips available on our www.capetown.gov.za/blocked-sewers,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation Councillor Zahid Badroodien.

City’s proactive efforts leading up to and during winter include:

  • Cleaning main sewer pipelines in most flood-prone areas using jetting machines to clear blockages
  • Cleaning sand and litter traps/ booms, and river systems such as ponds, canals and culverts and monitoring them for additional cleaning where needed to avoid blockages that could lead to flooding
  • Replacing broken, stolen or damaged sewer manhole (drain) covers regularly
  • Cleaning pump station sumps and wet wells
  • Monitoring telemetry alarm systems at pump stations
  • Repairing collapsed sewers in the shortest timeframe possible when needed
  • Replacing electrical/mechanical components on critical pump stations
  • Inspecting illegal stormwater to sewer connections at properties
  • Ongoing public awareness education through the Bin it, Don’t Block it campaign. This informs residents about getting rid of waste properly, and not to dump illegally or flush and pour items down sinks and drains that can cause blockages in the network.

Team up this winter

Residents can also help the City prevent sewers from overflowing into streets this winter by:

  • Only flushing human waste and toilet paper. Anything else will block the sewer pipes.
  • Don’t pour cooking oils or fats down the sink and drain. This becomes hard and blocks the pipes.
  • Report stolen and broken manhole covers so they can be replaced so that rainwater and illegally dumped items such as litter, rubble and waste don’t enter the sewer pipes which will cause blockages.
  • Report illegal dumping and blocked drains so they can be cleared, as this can make overflows worse.

Visit www.capetown.gov.za/blocked-sewers for more information and tips.