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Cape Town clamps down on backwashing

By Jessica Anne Wood

The City of Cape Town has come out stating that people who backwash their pools into storm water drains can be fined R1, 000.

“As part of the City of Cape Town’s commitment to effectively managing and conserving our natural environment, pool owners are advised that in cases where they do not have a recycling system in place, backwash systems should discharge into the sewer system rather than the storm water system.

“Pool backwash is very high in chlorine and other chemicals that can have a destructive effect on the natural environment. If this water is discharged into the storm water system, it can pose a risk to ecosystems downstream. As such, those who are found to be doing this are liable to a fine of R1, 000,” explained the City.

Backwashing your pool

The bylaws for the City of Cape Town do allow for backwashed water to be discharged into the sewer system. According to the Environmental Health By-law, no person shall “cause or permit any foul or polluted water or any foul liquid or objectionable material to run or flow from any premises to that owned or occupied by another person, whether occupied for trade, business, manufacturing, dwelling or other purposes, onto any land or into any stormwater, river or canal system.

“[Or] commit, cause or permit to be committed any act which may pollute any water to which inhabitants of the area of jurisdiction of the council have the right of use or access.”

When having a pool installed, the installer is meant to abide by the by-laws pertaining to the disposal of the pool backwash water. However, Ernest Sonnenberg, the City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, highlighted that the owner has a shared responsibility in this regard.

“All pools constructed pre-2005 are individually assessed. If the City is of the opinion that a discharge will have minimum impact on the system versus cost implications linked to re-routing the drainage system, then the owner may be exempted,” stated Sonnenberg.

However, where a contravention to the by-laws is found the homeowner may be issued a fine. “Where applicable, a notice will be served giving the owner a time-frame to correct the contravention, after which legal action may be instituted,” added Sonnenberg.

Responsible water use

The City has recommended that people consider installing a recycling system which will treat the pool water when it is backwashed.

“In a water-scarce area such as Cape Town, residents need to try and save water wherever possible. Not only will the above system protect storm water from contamination, but it will also mitigate against the need to refill the pool. With dam levels as low as they are, we request that residents who have pools investigate this as a matter of urgency,” noted Sonnenberg.

Furthermore, the City highlighted that the use of automatic top-up systems for pools is prohibited, and that pool covers should be used to prevent evaporation.

“We would like to reiterate the call for residents to familiarise themselves with the water restrictions and ensure that they stick to the provisions thereof. The possibility of lower than average rainfall going forward is such that we need to make every drop count,” added Sonnenberg.

For more information on the water restrictions, click here.

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