South Africa's Water History: 19 th Century

15 th Century 16 th Century 17 th Century 18 th Century 19 th Century 20 th Century 21 st Century 22 nd Century

1800-1810 1810-1820 1820-1830 1830-1840 1840-1850 1850-1860 1860-1870 1870-1880 1880-1890 1890-1899


1804 Uitenhage: The district of Uitenhage was proclaimed in 1804 when a drostdy was established. Captain Alberti, officer in charge of Fort Frederick, laid out the town on the northern bank of the Swartkops River. Stone-age artifacts and pre-historic mammal teeth found at the present-day Uitenhage Springs indicate that the eyes of the artesian springs have been a constant source of water for living creatures for at least 200 000 years. (Ref.7)


The first water facility to deliver water to an entire town was built in Paisley, Scotland in 1804 by John Gibb to supply his bleachery and the town and, within three years, filtered water was even piped directly to customers in Glasgow, Scotland. (WRC - History of Water Treatment)


In 1806, a large water treatment plant began operating in Paris. The plant’s filters were made of sand and char-coal and where renewed every six hours. Pumps were driven by horses working in three shifts. (WRC - History of Water Treatment)




Cape Town water supply:The wooden pipes serving Cape Town (water supply) were replaced with cast iron pipes, imported from the England. The Home Government appointed Mr.John Chrisholme (photo) for this task. At the same time fountains were replaced by swing-handle pumps. One ot it, the "Hurling Swaai Pomp" can be seen in the Gardens. Ref.1.

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Cape Town water supply:The shortage of water in Cape Town became apparent at the time of the British takeover in 1806, and the Home Government appointed the leading engineer of the day, John Rennie, to investigate augmentation of the supply.  His solution was to build a 250,000 gallon reservoir in what is now Hof Street in 1814.   (Ref.3.)        


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Port Elizabeth: When the British Settlers landed in 1820 Port Elizabeth comprised Fort Frederick, the mission station at Bethelsdorp, some small groups of Gonaqua tribesmen and very little else. It was only after 1820 that the town started to develop. (Ref.7)


In 1827 Englishman James Simpson 1827 Englishman James Simpson built a sand filter for drinking water purification. (WRC - History of Water Treatment)
1829 Port Elizabeth water supply: In 1829 an enterprising businessman, Fortuin Weys, built a pump to pipe water from a well on the western edge of Market Square to the beach, making it easier for sale and transport to ships. This well was unable to supply enough water for the town.(Ref.7)    


The first Voortrekkers arrived in the Rietvlei area with Andries Hendrik Potgieter in December 1836.  The two Bronkhorst brothers established the farms Elandspoort and Groenkloof during 1836 and 1840, naming the fountain at the mouth of the Apies River Bronkhorstfontein (Bronkhorst fountain).  Later more settlers arrived and a community was eventually formed, with the first house apparently being built in the Fountains Valley by JGS Bronkhorst in 1840. (Ref 16)

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A farmer, Pierre Rocher closed of the mouth to the Papkuils river (approximately 25 km from Piketberg), forcing it to flow behind the dunes to improve summer grazing for livestock. This resulted in a pan. less than 2 m deep and a perfect habitat for birds. Rocherpan was established more than 120 years later (1967) as a nature reserve. Ref.4.

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1839 Uitenhage Springs: Mr John G Schlemmer, owner of a plot in Caledon Street and proprietor of the farm Sandfontein, conceived the idea of building a flour mill, since he was a miller by trade, in Caledon Street at the top of High and Church Streets. He applied to the Town Commissioner to implement a water scheme, undertaking to dig an earth furrow with convict labour supplied by the government. In exchange he acquired an erf on which to build his mill and the use of free water to operate the mill. The water could then serve 170 erven in town. This scheme was approved and was completed in 1839. Earth furrows were dug from the mill in Magennis Park, across Church Street, round Cannon Hill, down to the Drostdy, then along the back of the erven in Caledon Street, a total length of 11 000 yards. In time Schlemmer’s Mill became a landmark in Uitenhage (two of the original mill stones are displayed at the Drostdy Museum). Stringent regulations were passed by the Commissioners in dealing with pollution and water use. (Ref.7)
1840-1849 Back to top


Cape Town became a municipality in 1840. (Ref.3.)        


The responsibility for the supply of water to Cape Town was handed over to the newly established Municipality of Cape Town (from the Colonial Government). Ref.1.


"Tubular pipes" – salt-glazed earthenware – had recently been rediscovered, and mass-produced by Doulton - perhaps better known for more refined pottery - from 1840.  The hydraulic merits and watertightness of earthenware pipes in comparison to masonry arches were well appreciated by the engineers called to give evidence, but they did fear that the pipes might burst if hydraulically overloaded.  (Ref.3.)        


The Municipality of Uitenhage was formed in June 1841. (Ref.7)        
1844 The naming of the Blyde River is of Dutch origin meaning ‘happy river’. It was so called because in 1844 Voortrekker leader Hendrik Potgieter and others returned safely from Delagoa Bay where they had gone in search of a harbor for trading to the rest of their party of trekkers who had considered them dead. While still under this misapprehension they had named the river, where they had been encamped, Treurrivier, or ‘river of weeping’. NamingBLYDE.JPG (52945 bytes)      
1846 The Dog Stone: This gneiss rock inspired Thomas Grace to name "Hondeklip Bay" (Dog Stone Bay) when he landed here in 1846.  In 1853 the "ear" was removed to facilitate "The Dog's Ear Copper Company".  Subsequently the "nose" was struck off during a lighting storm. Hondeklipbaai17.JPG (58038 bytes) Hondeklipbaai18.JPG (50213 bytes)    
1848 Port Elizabeth water supply: The first mention in the records of the Municipality of Port Elizabeth dealing with water supply for the town was the receipt of a letter from Mr Coleman, dated 5 July 1848, submitting certain views on the subject. On 12 July 1848, the Commissioners decided to meet with him. At the same meeting it was decided to advertise for tenders for sinking a well, 5 feet in diameter to hold not less than 6 feet of water. Only one tender was received from Mr Joseph Morton and it was decided to sink the well near to Mr Diesel's property. Later, on 28 February 1849 it was decided to sink a well in the kloof (now Whites Road), between the houses of Mr Bird and Mr Adcock. (Ref.7)        
1850-1859 Back to top
1850 By 1850 only 20% of Cape Town buildings had running water; all others relied on citizens collecting water from the public fountains.  (Ref.3.)
1850 Cape Town water supply:By the late 1850's the lack of drainage was pressing, and Cape Town was not a healthy town.  There were particular black spots in slum areas in the vicinity of Barrack Street and Keerom Street, which were low lying and poorly drained, but the overall picture was little better.  However the municipality was not prepared to invest in sanitary services.  The municipal Councillors were usually wealthy owners and landlords who had no inclination to increase the rates on their own properties.  To their credit they did appoint a properly qualified City Engineer, Mr Woodford Pilkington, in 1855. (Ref.3.)    
1850 Cape Town water supply: In 1857 the situation was becoming intolerable, and the newly established House of Assembly decided to flex its muscle.  It appointed a Select Committee to report on the Sanitary State of Cape Town.  The Committee heard extensive evidence, and one can only marvel at the thoroughness and perspicacity of the Chairman of the Committee, the well-known John Fairbairn, who led the questioning. (Ref.3.)
1851 Port Elizabeth water supply: In 1851 the Algoa Bay Mooring and Watering Company built a stone tank over the Baakens River and water was piped to the Market Square to supplement the existing well, which was built in 1829. (Ref.7)    

Various manipulations of the Berg River over the past three hundred years have provided water for surrounding agriculture. In 1852, Sir Thomas Bain, a prominent engineer at the time, and Gawie Retief, constructed one of the first major water diversion schemes in South Africa at a cost of R2 800. Water from the Witte River (a tributary of the Breede River) was diverted via a furrow to the Krom River, a tributary of the upper Berg River. This became known as ‘Gawie se Water’. (Ref 14)

1853 Hundreds of people froze to death after a severe snow storm in the Eastern Cape on 3 September 1853. (Ref.8).    
1855 Port Elizabeth water supply: In 1855 when Donkin Street was built, the stream running down the ravine was closed in and water piped underground to the sea. William Selwyn wrote a poem: “The lament of the Donkin Street streamlet, on being entombed by an unpoetical municipality” on the subject. (Ref.7)    
1860-1869 Back to top
1860 Port Elizabeth water supply: On 26 September 1860, owing to the scarcity of water, all the Municipal wells were closed from 9 am to 4 pm daily. At this juncture it is worthy of mention that the majority of the wells in town were five feet in diameter and held not less than 6 feet of water. They were all lined with masonry and for protection against accidents and contamination covered with strong oak, teak or yellowwood frames with trap-doors. If available, sneezewood and stinkwood were also used.  (Ref.7)    


Port Elizabeth: A municipality was formed in 1861.(Ref.7)    


In 1863 the Cape Town municipal system was changed.  Commissioners and wardmasters were abolished and a town council and officials were installed on lines which would remain for another hundred and thirty years.  The personal care, which had been a feature of the ward system, was soon lacking, and the infrastructure, rudimentary as it was, soon fell into disrepair. (Ref.3.)


Uitenhage water supply: Refer to the water scheme (from the Springs) which was completed in 1839. Official gauging of the water flow commenced in 1867 with a recorded 89 l /s. In 1867 the Uitenhage Water Act (Act no 3 of 1867) was passed by the Cape parliament to allow for the storing and filtering of water in a reservoir near town, the leading of water through the streets for household purposes and the levying of a rate for water usage.(Ref.7)    
1864 Port Elizabeth water supply: As a stop-gap measure, Mr Pinchin and Mr Clement Wall Frames, nephew of William Brooksby Frames, negotiated with the Town Council to supply water to the lower parts of the town from the Shark’s River. At that time water from the Shark’s River was used for a woolwashery established by Frames on the south bank. Capital of £10 000 was raised in subscribed shares of £100 each. This scheme was known as the Shark’s River Water Supply Company. In 1863 a masonry wall was constructed across the Shark’s River. This storage reservoir, with a capacity of over half a million gallons, was officially opened in 1864 and named “Frames Dam”, after Clement Frames, who initiated and built the dam and layed a pipeline to town. The opening ceremony was preceded by a morning hunt and a champagne breakfast. The dam was located approximately 11/2 miles south of the town in the Shark’s River Valley on the farm Gomery, now Humewood. Water from the storage dam was conveyed to the town by a pipeline laid between the beach and Main Street, and extended as far as the prison in North End. The pipes used were imported from England. Taps were fitted at regular intervals for the convenience of residents. (Ref.7)    
1870-1879 Back to top


Drs Robert Koch and Joseph Lister demonstrated that microorganisms existing in water supplies can cause disease. (WRC - History of Water Treatment)


Warmbaths:  Jan Grobler and Carl van Heerden were hunting in this area one winter when they noticed a  cloud of vapour rising in the cold air. They rode to the spot, and found a powerful hot spring bubbling to the surface amid a morass of soggy vegetation.  The spring was later found to have been a death trap for numerous wild animals, for when it was cut open, a vast accumulation of skeletons - including those of elephants, were recovered from the mud.

The Sotho tribespeople knew the area as Bela Bela (the boiling place).  The two European discoverers of the hot spring settled in the vicinity of what first became known as Het Bad.  Carl van Heerden established a farm around the hot spring, draining the swamp with a furrow and cleaning out the morass.  People with ailments began to arrive to take the waters, camping and digging their own baths in the mud, which they encircled with screening shelters of reeds and blankets.

In 1873 President Burgers visited the place and considered it wo great a national asset that he pursuaded his Volksraad to purchase the area of the baths which from then on came under state control. Eventually the present town of Warmbaths was laid out, receiving its first health committee in 1921. (Ref 11)


11 March 1871

A meeting was called to discuss the protection of municipal engineers against undue influence or pressure. The meeting took place in the town hall, Stratford, London and was attended by four municipal engineers. (Ref.2.)

15 February 1873

The Association of Municipal and Sanitary Engineers was formed on 15 February 1873. (Ref.2.)


Uitenhage water supply: To improve the poor state of the water course and to reduce the heavy losses from seepage, cast iron pipes were laid with valves, hydrants and fittings from the Springs to the town in 1874, after parliament had approved the Uitenhage Water Service Increased Loan Act. The first service reservoir was constructed in 1875 near to the original Muir School. In later years it was demolished.(Ref.7)        


Cape Town water supply: The post of Surveyor-General and Superintendent of Public Works was created in 1828, and in due course (as the profession became established in England) the job title was expanded to include "Civil Engineer to the Colony".  Col. Charles C. Michell, the first appointee, concentrated his not inconsiderable energy on the construction of roads and mountain passes, but after his retirement in 1848 the job was split and eventually the position of "Hydraulic Engineer to the Colony" was created.  This was filled from 1875 to 1886 by John Gamble whose portfolio included not only the provision of water to the Mother City, but also investigations and proposals for water supply throughout the colony whose borders were periodically expanding.  His projects included finding permanent water supplies for remote villages like Graaff-Reinet and Riversdale, the estimation of floods through Meirings Poort, and the potential for irrigation in the Vaal Hartz area.  He also arranged for rain gauges to be installed at every magistracy, thus laying the foundations of a reliable hydrological and meteorological service. (Ref.3.)        


Worcester originally drew its water from the Hex River. The early water distribution method was very primitive. The water ran in over Joubert's Mill and then flowed in open channels through the town. The first reservoir and distribution pipes were built in 1875  (Ref 12)        


During 1875 a hydraulic division was established in the Public Works Department of the Cape Colony and although valuable investigations were carried out soon after its establishment, it was not until after the year 1900 that a systematic system of river flow gauging was commenced. (Ref 17)        
1880-1889 Back to top
1880 Port Elizabeth water supply: From 1820 until 1880 no house in Port Elizabeth had water on tap unless the owner could afford rainwater tanks or underground storage tanks. Rainwater from the roofs of houses was thus sometimes stored in tanks on the landowners' premises, while surface water was obtained from the many creeks and streams in the town area. A wide vlei on the site of the present Trinder Square (opposite the PE/St Georges Club in Bird Street) was used chiefly by cattle and spans of oxen. The Baakens River and Shark’s River were sources from which water was drawn. Further away springs were found at Van der Kemp’s Kloof, Bethelsdorp, Bogg Farm in Walmer, Lakeside and Kragga Kamma Road.(Ref.7)
1880 Cape Town water supply: In 1880 Cape Town was in a shocking state.  Unrestrained winter torrents gouged out roads and flooded homes; sand enveloped the town in clouds of red dust during south-easters, blinding and knocking down unfortunate pedestrians.  Waste accumulated in covered grachts and released stinking gases.  Night soil and refuse collection was inefficient and the contents of the latrine pails were frequently emptied directly into the streets.  Severe water shortages were now an annual event, and lack of sufficient water was a further reason for delaying any drainage scheme. (Ref.3.)
1880 Cape Town sewerage: A major consideration in installing a drainage scheme in Victorian times was the availability of water to flush drains.  Combined sewers, unsophisticated inlet structures, untarred streets, lack of proper refuse removal and street cleaning, and outfalls which experienced back up at high tide all contributed to high deposition of solids in the pipes.  The practice in coastal towns in the Northern Hemisphere was to flush drains using seawater. Cape Town installed such a system in about 1880 to flush the rudimentary drainage system then existing.  Seawater was pumped up to a reservoir in Tamboer's Kloof from where it was distributed to flushing tanks at the head of various pipelines.  Each tank released about 1 kilolitre "almost instantaneously" which was supposed to take care of the flushing process.  In theory the scheme worked but actually it did little to keep the drains clear, or to alleviate the noxious smells, which were generally complained about. Cape Town's Mayor, Mr T.J. O'Reilly, and the Chairman of the Works committee Mr John Woodhead were examined at length on the ineffectiveness of the flushing process by the 1888 Select Committee.  The problem, it seemed, was the pump engine, which gave continuous trouble.  The agents did their best but their repairs in a remote area, mechanically speaking, to an inadequate machine were ineffective.  The real reason was drawn out of Mr Woodhead: "The engine is a cheap thing of little power!" (Ref.3.)        
1881 Cape Town sewerage: The first attempt at a proper sewerage design for Cape Town was prepared by a Mr Harper, an employee of the council, in 1881.  He proposed that the sea outfall was to be situated north-west of the harbour, presumably in the region of Granger Bay.  The scheme was considered by the leading local engineers including Mr Gamble of the Colonial Government, and was commended – until it was found that the interceptor ran through the Castle and the docks, whereupon it was abandoned. (Ref.3.)


Cape Town water supply: Completion of the Molteno Reservoir on Table Mountain. Main water supply to Cape Town. 


Hydraulic engineer Thomas Stewart is widely believed to have been the first consulting engineer in South Africa.  In 1881 he became an assistant in the office of  Sir Johan Wolfe Barry. Barely a year later 25 year old Stewart decided to seek his fortune in the settlement at the Cape. Stewart was responsible for the design and construction of the five reservoirs on Table Mountain as well as the Steenbras waterworks for Cape Town as well as  various other projects. (Ref 15)

27 August 1882

Cape Town water supply: The Molteno Reservoir on Table Mountain, developed a leak, the wall gave way and a flood of water swept through Cape Town, causing considerable damage to property. (Ref.1)


Cape Town water supply: The Molteno Reservoir on Table Mountain aws rebuilt an important element of Cape Town City's water supply.  "Bombing" seagulls became a serious pollution headache, until the problem was solved by stringing nylon line above the water. (Ref.1). 


Cape Town sewerageMr Thomas Cairncross took over as City Engineer for Cape Town and began departmental work to improve sewerage.  He commenced with a main intercepting sewer, parallel to the shore, in 1888.  (Ref.3.)


Cape Town sewerageMr Edward Pritchard, the expert selected by the City of Cape Town, was an engineer of some standing, having been President of the Institute of Municipal and Sanitary Engineers of Great Britain.  He arrived in the Colony in September 1888 and left in November.  His proposals centred on an outfall to the sea at the southern mouth of the Salt River.  Here the discharge would take place at ordinary high water level through a 33-inch cast iron pipe founded on piles.  The main interceptor sewer would run inland under Sir Lowry Road and Darling Street, and sewage from lower lying areas would be pumped into this through five "ejector stations": compressed air lifts each powered by its own steam engine.  The interceptor then under construction on the coastline would become redundant and would have to be scrapped, as in his opinion it would cause further pollution.  The minor sewerage he proposed was, by modern standards, fairly conventional and he went to some pains to explain the system of circular pipes laid in straight lines with manholes at changes in direction In a town laid out to a grid pattern, as was Cape Town, there was little other that could be done.  He believed that flushing of sewers was absolutely essential, preferably with fresh water although under the prevailing conditions he would reluctantly allow seawater to be used – salt water "hastened the fermentation of sewage".  An automatic flushing chamber was proposed for the end of each major sewer line. (Ref.3.)        
1887 Johannesburg Water Supply:  In December 1887, the Waterworks Concession was signed, allowing Mr James Sivewright to lay pipes under the streets of Johannesburg to supply inhabitants with water. (Ref 9).         
1889 Johannesburg Sewerage: The Sanitary Board started removing slops from all private homes in Johannesburg , Marshall ’s’ and Ferreira’s townships. But hotels and boarding houses had to make their own arrangements        
1890-1899 Back to top
1890 Pretoria water supply: The fountains in the Fountains Valley were originally the only source of water for the inhabitants of Pretoria. The first water scheme was completed in 1890 and consisted of a 12 inch (300 mm) diameter aquaduct laid from the Fountains Valley into town and a cast iron pipe network serving Pretoria Central and Trevenna. (Ref.6)
4th January 1890 Johannesburg Sewerage: A leading article in the 4 January 1890 edition of The Star commented on the alarming increase in the number of a particularly virulent strain of typhoid fever in the town. The fever hospital was full to overflowing. (Ref 9).         
1892 Johannesburg Water Supply: Three reservoirs were constructed, the largest extending over part of the area of the present Ellis Park, with a capacity of 98 MI. (Ref 9).        


Johannesburg Water Supply: The Braamfontein Estate Company was founded by H Eckstein and Company to develop a large portion of the farm Braamfontein, which led to the layout of Parktown and Westcliff. (Ref 9). 


Johannesburg Water Supply: The Vierfontein Syndicate (Ltd) was registered to address the water problems, by exploring for water on the farm Vierfontein. (Ref 9). 


Cape Town sewerageNo less a person than the Prime Minister of the Colony, Cecil Rhodes himself, who was in London at the time, selected a new engineer for Cape Town to re-design the drainage scheme.  One can imagine the ripples that were caused when a terse cable arrived at the Town House: "Mayor – Selected Sanitary Engineer, leaves for Colony on 27th inst. - Premier". The appointee was Mr Clement Dunscombe MICE, who had "large experience in dealing with unsanitary and unhealthy areas in England", and had spent many years in the employ of the Liverpool Corporation before setting up as a consulting engineer. Dunscombe duly arrived on March 20th 1891 and remained in the city until he presented his report on 21st May.  Like Pritchard he was also employed to design a scheme for the Southern Suburbs. His report was rather more comprehensive and practical than Pritchard's, and included relatively detailed estimates, and a survey of the extent and state of the existing drainage.  At this stage the city had eight miles of sewers, seven of which had been laid during the tenure of Mr Cairncross.  He analysed the water supply and recommended that the system of domestic storage tanks, which only led to further risk of pollution, be discontinued.  He believed that the town would have sufficient water provided that "the wasteful consumption of water is prevented by the careful choice and approval of all water fittings, and if proper waste preventive cisterns are insisted upon for all water closets, and every precaution is taken to detect and localise waste in the mains, services and fittings" – a sentiment which has been echoed with some emphasis over a hundred years later!  (Ref.3.)


Cape Town sewerageIn 1894 construction commenced on the Woodhead reservoir on Table Mountain.  At this stage the authorities were sufficiently confident about the adequacy of the water supply to begin real steps to implement water-borne sewerage throughout the city.  They were sadly mistaken, as by the time it was completed, the yield from the Woodhead proved insufficient and an immediate start was made to construct the Hely-Hutchinson reservoir. (Ref.3.) 022.jpg (53177 bytes)


Johannesburg sewerageIn September 1894 the Sanitary Board instructed the Town engineer to prepare plans and sections of the town of Johannesburg with the object of recommending a suitable sewer system to serve the town.  (Ref.9.)        
1894 When the post of City Engineer in Cape Town  suddenly became vacant in 1894, the Council resolved to advertise the post overseas at a salary of £800 per annum.  Interestingly at the same time the Council resolved to appoint an electrical engineer and a new MOH.  The electrical post was advertised in South Africa at a salary of £400 per annum and received no applicants.  There were six responses to the medical post, and Dr E. Barnard Fuller, still remembered as a distinguished MOH, was appointed  - at £200 per annum!  (He was allowed some private practice, but the disparity in salaries is still enormous.). (Ref.3.)
1894 Johannesburg Water Supply: By the end of 1894, more reservoirs had been constructed – one on the site of Ellis Park tennis courts, one in Bezuidenhout Park and a third one of masonry on the high ground in the south of Yeoville. (Ref 9). 
  1896 Between 1896 and 1907, five dams, the Woodhead, Hely-Hutchinson, De Villiers, Alexandria and Victoria reservoirs, were opened on the Back Table to supply Cape Town's water needs. A ropeway ascending from Camps Bay via Kasteelspoort ravine was used to ferry materials and manpower (the anchor points at the old top station can still be seen). There is a well-preserved steam locomotive from this period housed in the Waterworks Museum at the top of the mountain near the Hely-Hutchinson dam. It had been used to haul materials for the dam across the flat top of the mountain. Cape Town's water requirements have since far outpaced the capacity of the dams and they are no longer an important part of the water supply. (Ref 10) 035.jpg (45277 bytes)    
1896 Johannesburg Water Supply: The Waterworks Company commissioned the sinking of a well shaft into the dolomite formation at Zuurbekom, about 27 km from Johannesburg on the Potchefstroom Road. (Ref 9).
1896 Johannesburg Sewerage: Johannesburg had to accommodate a considerable influx of people as a result of the rinderpest scourge of that year. (Ref 9).         
1896 Johannesburg Water Supply: The Town Engineer reported that a new depositing site on the farm Waterval had been fenced in and gates erected….the report continued by stating that by 1896 tenders had already been invited for 30 horse power boilers, two pumps and 5400 yards of delivery main. (Ref 9).         
1897 Johannesburg Sewerage: Pumping started in May 1897 by which time 16 million gallons of slops and two and a quarter million gallons of night soil were being deposited at Waterval. (Ref 9).         

Cape Town sewerageFrom the drawing board of Mr. W.T. Olive (head of the municipal technical services of Cape Town) came the design for a new outfall sewer for Cape Town, flowing from east to west – and construction began almost immediately.  The feeder reticulations, designed by Cairncross, Pritchard, Dunscombe, and a newly appointed drainage engineer, Rigby, were connected - and this main sewer is still in commission 100 years later. The outfall point was about 100 meters out to sea just west of Green Point lighthouse.  A screening chamber was situated on the landward side, and from here a 4ft 6in. diameter masonry tunnel ran – and still runs 100 years later - directly under Green Point Common at a depth approaching 17 metres.  More or less at the Gallows Hill Traffic Depot the line turns towards the docks, to a point in the vicinity of the traffic circle near the slipway.  From here it runs along the still existing line of Dock Road as far as Long Street, from where it wends its way to Strand Street, avoiding the hill at Waterkant by routing along Fish Lane.  Fortunately for the future Strand Concourse and the Golden Acre, the line moves up a block to Castle Street via St George's Street, and then cuts diagonally under the Post Office building and the Parade.  The diameter at this stage is 4ft.  The route is now along Darling Street and Sir Lowry Road.  For some reason it moves a block towards the mountain at Tennant Street, thence along Selkirk Street and terminates as a 3 ft diameter pipe at Russell Street.  There were detailed designs for complicated crossings of masonry storm-water conduits at various streets.  No doubt further complications arose as these were replaced.  Flow from areas lower than this sewer was lifted into it by means of "Shone Ejectors", pneumatic machines operating on compressed air.  The scheme was gradually put into service from about 1899, with the sewer at the head being completed in 1901, and the last work on the on the outfall being done in 1903.  (Ref.3.)

1897 Uitenhage water supply: In 1897 tenders were called for the construction of a 200 000 gallon (900 k l ) reservoir and a 400 mm dia pipeline from the Springs. Messrs WF Malloch & Company were awarded the contract for the reservoir and the laying of the 7,5 km pipeline. The project was completed in 1899 and WF Malloch stayed on to become Town Engineer. (Ref.7)        
1897 Mining magnate Barney Barnato built a grand mansion in Berea in 1897 and created a lake in front of it large enough for boating, in the surrounding five-hectare estate, now the large block surrounded by Park Lane, Beatrice Lane, Barnato Street and Tudhope Avenue. The lake was filled from the spring that is the source of the Braamfontein Spruit, and it was surrounded by landscaped gardens of conifers, some of which are still growing. One tree, a cork, still exists, its magnificent trunk rising up from the ground like a gnarled giant. Barnato never lived in his mansion - some believe he was pushed overboard from a passenger liner on his way to England in 1897, while others think he committed suicide by jumping into the sea. All that remains of his estate are three magnificent wrought-iron entrance gates (the fourth was stolen), and the original gatehouse, in Barnato Street , now used as a shelter for abused teenagers. (Ref.5.)
1898 Johannesburg Sewerage: The Town Engineer reported that it had been necessary to take up most of the stone aprons at the slop pumping station owing to the considerable amount of wear they were subjected to. (Ref 9).         
June 1898 Johannesburg Sewerage: advertisements were placed in local newspapers calling offers from firms to carry out a complete sewerage scheme for Johannesburg based on the proposals. However, the Government gave notice of its intention to take the matter of sewering the town under its control, as a result of which the Town Council withdrew the advertisement. (Ref 9).         
1898 Johannesburg Sewerage: The Town Engineer in his annual report pleaded that the Sanitary Department be asked to discontinue the spreading of bath water on the streets. (Ref 9).         

It was Boer General Hendrik J Schoeman who first saw the potential for a dam on the Crocodile River, 30 km west of Pretoria, in the 1890s. In 1898, he completed the construction of a dam on his farm Hartbeespoort, and named it Sophia Dam, after his wife.    The dam was of concrete, and was about nine metres high. This dam did not impound any water, but was used for the leading out of water and the irrigation of adjacent land. Unfortunately, the dam was washed away in a flood on 9 January 1909.     (Ref 12: Water Wheel May_June 2008)       

1899 Rigby's Stormwater Scheme for Cape Town. H.P.B. Rigby AMICE came to South Africa with considerable experience in the North of England and America.  The scheme as designed provided for the construction of 163,000 ft of drainage, 845 manholes, 30 flushing tanks, 1573 gullies and 100 overflows from the sewerage system.  Filling in of the old sewers was included.  The total cost was estimated at £338,700, but Rigby suggested that this was too large an outlay for one commitment.  He proposed a Plan "B" (his own term) by which 52,000 feet of the most urgent drainage would initially be constructed at an estimated cost of £135,000.10.  Probably from experience with the sewerage works, he recommended that the permanent work and importation of materials be done departmentally, but that excavation and disposal of cut material could be put out to contract.  Departmental construction, he felt, would result in better quality work.  The Council agreed enthusiastically and the work was put in hand. By 1899, it was claimed, Cape Town had many amenities of a modern city.  (Ref.3.)

Ref.1. Woodhead Dam. 100 years. Centenary. City of Cape Town. ISBN 1-874924-72-4

Ref.2. Institute for Municipal Engineering in South Africa. (

Ref.3. Tony Murray. History of Rivers and Drainage in the Cape Metropolitan Area. 

Ref.4. Wide Blue

Ref.5. Water, Water, everywhere...  ( 

Ref.6. Scanned document "THE HISTORY OF WATER SUPPLY TO PRETORIA" received from Mr.Koot Snyman of City of Tshwane.

Ref.7. Raymer, David Anthony A HISTORY OF PORT ELIZABETH AND UITENHAGE’S WATER SUPPLYRaymer, David Anthony, civil engineer. Employed as graduate engineer in July 1980. Promoted to Assistant Water Engineer in 1988 and Water Engineer (Operations) in 1990. Appointed  Assistant Manager (Bulk Water & Water Management) in 2004. Resigned in February 2007 to work for consultants. He is the author of the book, Streams of Life: A History of Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage’s Water Supply. * Port Elizabeth 22.8.1953

Ref.8. Grobler, Roger R. (1996). A Framework for Modelling Losses arising from Natural Catastrophes in South Africa. University of Pretoria. 

Ref.9. Grant, George & Flinn, Taffy (1992). Watershed Town. The History of the Johannesburg City Engineer's Department.

Ref 10:  Table Mountain

Ref 11:  Discovering Southern Africa - T.V Bulpin

Ref 12:  Wikipedia

Ref 13: Water Wheel November/December 2011 - Water History

Ref 14: DWA :

Ref 15: 'In the Footsteps of Giants' - Exploring the history of South Africa's large dams ~ Lani van Vuuren

Ref 16: Hydrogeological Heritage Overview:  PRETORIA'S FOUNTAINS -ARTERIES OF LIFE ~ Matthys A. Dippenaar

Ref 17: South Africa '77 Official Yearbook of the Republic of South Africa