This is an extract of the speech delivered by Mayor De Lille at the centenary celebrations of the City’s water services today, 30 September 2013.
Many of us take a lot of things for granted in our daily lives. We assume that we will be able to access electricity by flipping a switch.

We do not give a second thought to the fact that we will be able to contact almost anyone by phone or the internet.

And we have no doubt that when we turn on a tap, clean and drinkable water will flow.

Of course, there are those parts of our region where such modern conveniences are not yet taken for granted. These under-serviced areas are where we need to focus our efforts across all three levels of government.

But for the most part, the trappings of living in an advanced age are as real as they are assumed. Needless to say, it was not always this way.

While we in Cape Town enjoy the benefits of sophisticated infrastructure, we should sometimes take a moment to remember how it is we came to be in the position we are today.

That is the significance of this event. This past month has seen Cape Town celebrate the centenary of the amalgamation of Cape water systems at the municipal level through the unification of smaller municipalities into a unified City Council of Cape Town.

And 100 years is not a lot of time. For it was only a century ago that various historic municipalities came together to develop a common system for water capture, storage and distribution.

The clean water we enjoy in Cape Town today, stored and distributed in a water-scarce region, is thanks to this historic decision and achievement. In 1913, the municipalities of Cape Town, Green Point, Sea Point, Woodstock, Maitland, Mowbray, Rondebosch, Claremont and Kalk Bay, with Wynberg joining later, merged to become a unified council.

The reasoning behind the unification of what were then essentially small towns was to ensure a secure water supply by combining financial and other resources. Until then, these towns were directly dependent on water from Table Mountain.

Water was required from the Hottentots-Holland mountains, with catchment areas required in Wemmershoek and Steenbras. These water facilities, and transportation networks extending up to 60km, were beyond the capabilities of any of the small towns.

It was realised that only by joining into one government entity that they could meet the water requirements of all of them. As such, the new unified council combined three separate supply networks: Cape Town Waterworks, the Suburban Municipal Waterworks and the Kalk Bay-Muizenberg Waterworks.

After the formality of legally joining forces was achieved, the right engineering solution for water resources was achieved six years later with the decision to develop what is now the Steenbras Dam.

As we stand here today, it is interesting to consider that the originally identified water resources in the region from that engineering study have all been developed since they were first identified 100 years ago, including:

Silvermine Dam was built in 1898 to supply water to Cape Town. Photo Viv vd Heyden

Silvermine Dam was built in 1898 to supply water to Cape Town. Photo Viv vd Heyden

I am proud to say that the achievements of Cape Town in the field of water provision are not a historical fact – it is a present reality. It is important to understand the history of how we have come to be in the place where we are today.

The things that we take for granted were years in the making. But what is equally important is understanding that it has only been through a century of dedication and a commitment to engineering excellence that the City of Cape Town and its forerunners have been able to guarantee clean water for an ever-expanding population.

Our commitment to preserving our water supply, enhancing our reticulation networks, our investment in wastewater treatment and our investment in distribution networks has allowed us to maintain our high levels of service delivery.

In terms of some of our key measurements, I would like to share a few achievements with you:

Water quality

  • Maintained and improved our Blue Drop status since the inception of the Department of Water Affairs’ Regulatory Performance Management System in 2008 – we are in the top 10 nationally.
  • Maintained and increased the number of Wastewater Treatment Works with Green Drop status.
  • Received awards from the Water Institute of Southern Africa for some of our Wastewater Treatment Works.

    Bulk Water

  • We have received an Engineering Council of South Africa award for the Woodhead Dam.
  • We own and operate the City’s 10 water supply dams and the Atlantis well fields.

 

Water demand management

  • We have two of the largest pressure management systems in the world i.e. Khayelitsha and Mandalay.
  • We won the Department of Water Affairs Water Sector Award.
  • We have installed treated effluent facilities at 14 Wastewater Treatment Works to offset drinking water usage for irrigation and industrial applications.
  • Introduced city-wide water conservation and education programmes.

    Water reticulation

  • We have an International Organisation of Standardisation-accredited meter testing laboratory in Hillstar.
  • Received two South African Society for Trenchless Technology awards for innovative applications.

These are some significant achievements but certainly not all of them. Indeed, we host various national and international delegations to share our best practice with them as we are willing to share our extensive experience with all of our fellow governments.

As we celebrate this centenary, let us look forward to maintaining our levels of performance and improving on them. Because this region, which is already water scarce, is threatened by climate change, we have to guard our water resources now more than ever.

But as we have shown over the past 100 years, we are more than up to the task.

Thank you, baie dankie, enkosi.

INTEGRATED STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION AND BRANDING DEPARTMENT, CITY OF CAPE TOWN