Cape Town boosts water system


Cape Town’s impressive Green Point
stadium and surrounding precinct are
undergoing major renovation. (Image:
Bruce Sutherland, City of Cape Town)

Janine Erasmus

The City of Cape Town has announced a US$91-million (R786-million) upgrade to its existing water and sanitation infrastructure.

This is an important part of the city’s current five-year development plan, and amounts to almost 15% of the total $650-million (R5.5-billion) capital expenditure budget for the forthcoming financial year.

With the latest project Cape Town aims to further enhance its attractiveness as both a tourist and investment destination.


Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest city and traces its history back to the arrival of the first Dutch settlers in 1652, although Portuguese navigators had discovered the area some three centuries before. The existing infrastructure, while not quite as old as the city itself, therefore needs careful and constant maintenance.

Old and leaking pipes are a financial burden to the city. Cape Town loses almost 19% of its piped water to burst pipes and leaks in homes and offices. This costs the city more than $473 000 (R4-million) every year. The international standard for such losses in other world-class cities is 15%.

A complete replacement of Cape Town’s water system would cost $2.7-billion (R23-billion), said Clive Justus, the mayoral committee member for utility services. “The backlog of water mains replacement would become unmanageable if infrastructural replacement is not accelerated now,” he commented in a statement.

Forward planning

By investing into and accelerating the replacement of faulty water mains, city management plans to avert a crisis such as that experienced by power utility Eskom in early 2008, when inadequate infrastructure was unable to meet the country’s power demands. The Western Cape was the hardest hit and suffered rolling blackouts for many weeks, as well as a severe dent to its economy.

The international norm for water pipe replacement in terms of distance per year is 1% of the total network. Cape Town is currently replacing water pipes at a rate of 30km per year, but this is a big improvement on the 7.4km per year that was achieved just three years ago. The immediate goal is the replacement of 40km of pipes by mid-2009, which still amounts to just 0.5% of the total Cape Town network.

The 8 000km wastewater system is also due for treatment. In the northern suburbs, where development is rapid, the system is under particular stress. From July 2009, a $6.6-million (R56-million) upgrade project will see the replacement of pipelines where it is most needed.

Other projects currently underway include the allocation of $33-million (R280-million) to increase the capacity of the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works from 32 megalitres per day to 47. The project is scheduled for completion in mid-2009. Another state-of-the-art greenfield facility is under construction at Fisantekraal, situated 10km north of Durbanville. Greenfield refers to a plant that is built on previously undeveloped land.

Both plants together will provide treatment capacity for about 140 000 homes in Cape Town.

Extensive upgrades

The city is in the throes of extensive upgrades in several sectors.

The refurbishment of Green Point Stadium, a 2010 Fifa World Cup venue, is around 70% complete and according to the city, is on track for completion and handover in December 2009. The $520-million (R4.5-billion) project is set to become an eye-catching landmark, while the surrounding area of Green Point Common has also been revamped and will include a golf course and other sporting facilities by the time it is complete in March 2010.

Cape Town’s public transport system is getting a massive overhaul with the implementation of the Integrated Rapid Transit system. Phase one, which encompasses the airport-city and the city-stadium routes, is expected to be on the road in time for the World Cup in 2010.

City planners are also developing a stronger network of roads in suburban areas. This will include developments such as walking and cycling routes and better provision for public transport.

Africa’s leading airport

Cape Town International Airport, voted by the World Travel Awards as Africa’s leading airport no less than seven times, will see the opening of its new Terminal 2010 at the end of 2009. About $118-million (R1-billion) has been ploughed into the terminal, which will accommodate the domestic and international volume until 2015. Two new parkades are also nearing completion.

Business, education and private internet usage are getting a $47-million (R400-million) boost in the form of a brand-new fibre optic network. Phase one, the laying of about 202km of cable and connection points in key municipal and educational buildings, is in progress and the second phase will involve the expansion of the network to the suburbs, especially those that have no access to modern telecommunications.

The fibre optic network is one of the factors that earned Cape Town a spot on the Intelligent Community Forum‘s 2008 list of the world’s most intelligent cities. It also fulfils Fifa’s stringent telecomms requirements for 2010.

As if this weren’t enough, Cape Town is also investing heavily into the business of entertainment, with a $50-million (R430-million) film studio under construction just 20km out of the city. The Cape Town Film Studio will boost the filming industry in Cape Town, which is already the darling of international filmmakers. The city has seen film crews for both high-profile feature films such as Free Willy 4, Goodbye Bafana24: Redemption and Blood Diamond, as well as commercials, scurrying around its streets.

The studio complex is expected to open its doors early in 2010.

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