What’s in our water?

Water Stories has been created in the celebration of water, which gives life to all. This is a portal for sharing stories and information about river and ocean pollution. It’s a joint effort from academics, creatives and the wider community, with an aim of restoring life and health to oceans, rivers and the people of Cape Town.

Dive into our interactive map and storytelling portal to explore freshwater and ocean contamination around Cape Town. Journey with citizens and leading researchers through the stories of Cape Town’s water and waste metabolism, and its relationship with the famous Two Oceans that surround the peninsula city.

With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live. Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere is generated by the sea.

Sylvia Earle, US Oceanographer & Explorer

I guess I’ve always known about the outfalls. I know we pump sewage into the sea. But, like everyone else, I always assumed it was treated first and that it was safe going into the sea.

Jean Tresfon, Underwater and aerial photographer

I wish citizens thought of water as connective and relational — water connects people to one another, but also to nature in a never-ending, always-shifting set of relations.

Amy Beukes, Masters Student, Environmental Humanities South, UCT
Water connects us all — either freshwater or marine water. Whatever we put into water comes back to us one way or the other in so many forms. We have to guard our water jealously because water is life itself.
Cecilia Ojemaye, PhD, Chemistry, University of the Western Cape

Worldwide, wastewater treatment is failing. … As a result the majority of wastewaters, septage and faecal sludges are discharged without any form of treatment into the environment … spreading disease to humans and damaging key ecosystems such as coral reefs and fisheries. This is becoming increasingly a global problem as urban populations are projected to nearly double in the next 40 years … already most cities lack adequate wastewater management due to aging, absent or inadequate sewage infrastructure.

World Water Council, 2012, as quoted in Wastewater Management — A UN-Water Analytical Brief, 2015
I do feel a strong connection to the Kuils River because of what I’ve learnt from it. Doing research helped me slow down and notice relationships. It’s more than just H2O, more than components; there are multiple relationships formed by this river, and multiple histories entangled in this river.
Nikiwe Solomon, Environmental Humanities South, University of Cape Town

My vision for a healthy water system is one that gestates life and allows life to thrive, not just survive.

Amy Beukes, Masters Student, Environmental Humanities South, UCT

Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.

Sylvia Earle, US Oceanographer & Explorer

Urban Water Cycle

4.2 million people living in Cape Town, eating, drinking, producing, living, working and playing. We consume 500–800 Million Litres of water daily, and create a tidal wave of sewage, grey water filled with chemicals, and all kinds of other waste that is channeled via the sewers, stormwater drains, waste water treatment plants, rivers, and marine outfall pipes into the surrounding oceans.

Pollution

Do you know the impact of the chemical in your new teflon frying pan when it ends up in ocean fish? How did it get there, you wonder? Across the world a wide range of pollutants end up in our streams, rivers, lakes, groundwater, and eventually the oceans. From large pieces of rubbish to invisible chemicals, the contamination is threatening life itself.

Story Pools

Key hotspots in Cape Town tell the deeper stories of our freshwater and ocean pollution, by virtue of their position adjacent to waste water treatment plants, marine sewage outfall pipes or areas of marine dumping grounds. A dive into each story pool brings the collective stories of a community to light.
Camps Bay | False Bay | Green Point | Milnerton | Hout Bay | Macassar/Kuils River

Take Action

What’s in our water and how do we get it out? We are all part of the system that expects our environment to assimilate pollution on our behalf. Understanding where we can each take responsibility and action is an important part of ensuring clean and safe water for all who live in our city. Discover points of intervention where you can get involved!

Water Protectors

The water scientists, activists and communicators who help us understand what it means to have safe, clean water in our rivers and oceans are an important link to protecting these natural resources. They make the invisible visible — the contamination and pollution of the earth and water, and push for change.

Resources

Want to know more? All our content is based on in-depth, attributed research and writing from leading academics, activists and journalists dedicated to clean, healthy water in and around Cape Town. Find the full scientific papers, other publications, press articles, videos and images for different studies and research done on any of the stories featured on this website.

Get in Touch

Do you have an important water story, or do you wish to find out more? This is a collaborative, community action and information sharing project, designed to celebrate and protect water. We’d love to hear from you with your input, feedback and stories.

Email us on: hello@waterstories.co.za

Get in Touch

Do you have an important water story, or do you wish to find out more? This is a collaborative, community action and information sharing project, designed to celebrate and protect water. We’d love to hear from you with your input, feedback and stories.

Email us on: hello@waterstories.co.za