The City’s Roads Department has staff on standby at all 20 depots across the city for emergency work during the rainy season in the midst of the national lockdown.

The Department’s annual Winter Readiness Programme entails routine operations, which includes the maintenance and cleaning of the stormwater systems, pothole repairs, line marking, sign maintenance and pavement related treatments.

The national lockdown due to COVID-19 coincides with Cape Town’s rainy season. As such, the Roads Department has initiated a standby programme for operational staff at all 20 depots across the city. These teams will be ready to undertake emergency repairs and actions; and external service providers could also be deployed, should the need arise.

Cape Town’s Stormwater Management System comprises an extensive network of:

  • Approximately 7 500km of pipes and culverts
  • Underground conduits
  • 180 000 catchpits
  • 85 000 manholes
  • 850 stormwater ponds; and
  • 1 200km of rivers, canals, and open channels

The City’s stormwater infrastructure is maintained through proactive and reactive work, amounting to approximately R75 million per year; of which about R52 million is spent on the cleaning of pipes and catchpits.

Proactive planned maintenance entails mechanical cleaning of all underground pipes; the cleaning of catchpits, ponds, and open streams; underground inspections by means of CCTV cameras; and the repair of stormwater infrastructure.

This is done on a monthly basis, across all eight City districts.

Reactive maintenance undertaken by the depot staff is usually prompted by the City’s C3 notification system whereby residents report requests for services, for example to repair a pothole, or to attend to flood incidents. The total cost per annum for reactive maintenance amounts to R9,6 million.

Our Winter Readiness Programme involves cleaning a stormwater system and not just a few so- called red hot spots. Meaning, a specific flood prone area, low lying and has trapped low points, can be squeaky clean, but will still flood because the downstream system is not flowing. The downstream system could traverse through a number of areas that,, because of the design and topography, has overland escape areas and will not flood while the upstream flood prone area is flooding.

Thus, the programme addresses the stormwater system readiness for the rainy season. In this system, we have specific ‘Red Gulley’s/Hot Spots’ that need to be checked regularly because of topography, design, etc. and they then form part of a former red gulley list that the depots check on a regular basis after the system has been cleaned. The system cleaning is primarily done by external contractors and the depot teams do the reactive maintenance.

During the Level 4 lockdown period, the City’s Roads Department undertakes proactive planned maintenance through the use of mechanical cleaning methods, which has been outsourced to nine contractors across the metro. This method of cleaning of stormwater pipes and catchpits requires the use of a combination high pressure jetting truck and an average of two to three persons to operate and supervise the operation per area. The use of this method of cleaning requires minimal persons to be engaged in the activity and social distancing and hygienic behaviour can be observed, in line with addressing, preventing and combatting the spread of COVID-19.

The cleaning of the stormwater network is considered a critical maintenance service in addressing the flood risk.

The cleaning of the stormwater infrastructure is done annually for hydraulic functionality.

Residents must also bear in mind that the stormwater infrastructure must remain open to ensure an uninterrupted flow of stormwater throughout the city to ensure easy access for maintenance and rehabilitation purposes.

Furthermore, members of the public are not allowed to enter the stormwater infrastructure.

‘Cape Town has a rainy winter and stormwater drains play a crucial role in guiding the flow of water. Thus, in keeping with our key service delivery priorities and ensuring that excellence in service delivery continues despite the trying circumstances we all find ourselves in, we are doing all we can to ensure that the City’s stormwater system is well-maintained and strong enough to withstand the inevitable challenges that come with the wet weather conditions. However, we will not achieve this on our own – we implore our residents to work with us and refrain from disposing waste onto the streets and dumping illegally as this contributes to the stormwater blockages and results in constant flooding,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Alderman Felicity Purchase.

We also want to remind residents that it is illegal to dump in the stormwater canals and residents are encouraged to report any incidents they witness.

Residents can log complaints about road infrastructure to the Transport Information Centre on 0800 65 64 63. The TIC is available 24/7 and is toll-free from a landline or a cell phone. In so doing, they will assist us greatly to ensure efficient service delivery.