18th Century

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~In 1707 Willem Adriaan van der Stel procured 200 lead pipes from the VOC to bring fresh water from the foot of Table Mountain to the jetty; a four-jet fountain supplied the local needs, and Cape Town was, waterwise, considered to be well provided for.  Water for household use was taken from the canals which ran alongside the streets while the well in Greenmarket Square was the main source of water when the channels were dry. (Ref.1.)

~Initially the Dutch did not intend to establish more than a provisioning station at the Cape, and although this policy was later modified, Cape Town remained a “company town” and growth was slow.  The Free Burghers who farmed on their own behalf on the outskirts of the city were controlled by very restrictive conditions, and the Directors of the Company, the “Here Sewentien” were very reluctant to spend any money on “unnecessary” infrastructure.  Initially this attitude was determined by greed and the profit motive; in the latter stages of the VOC’s administration the company was approaching bankruptcy and simply had no funds to spend. The grip of the VOC weakened as it declined and the private citizenry increased.  By 1731 the population was 3,157, of whom a third were company employees.  The town was growing, and the grid pattern established by van Riebeeck was extended.  The streets continued to be flanked by channels which were both a source of water supply and a means of drainage.  (Ref.1.)


~In 1752 Ensign August Beutler visited the shores of Algoa Bay during an overland journey from the Cape. He camped on the shores of the bay and erected at the mouth of the Baakens River , a beacon of possession, bearing the arms of the Dutch East India Company. Nothing further was done, for the exposure of the bay to the south-east gales of summer made the place a death trap for shipping. A harbour to serve the Eastern Cape, however, became increasingly essential and, for want of anything better, Algoa Bay slowly came into use as a landing place for men and goods. (Ref 4)


Fresh water from the foot of Table Mountain (i.e Platteklip steam) to the jetty Buitengraght canal established. (Ref 3)


In 1771 the Buitengracht canal (in Cape Town) was established to act as a cut-off drain for the runoff from Signal Hill, and desultory attempts were made to install drainage in the main streets. The Council voiced concern about the deteriorating state of the grachts. (Ref.1.)


Uitenhage Springs: The Springs lie in pristine surroundings between the hills of sandstone at the foot of the Great Winterhoek Mountains and are located 8 km north of the town centre. The artesian water flows from the ground at nine eyes. The first burgher to farm in the Springs area was a Mr C Viljoen who obtained a permit in September 1773 on the farm Sandfontein. Viljoen was the brother-in-law of Gerrit Scheepers. He later dammed the water from the Springs which cut off the water to Scheepers’ farm. The two quarreled resulting in ill-feeling. Viljoen then sold his farm to Christoffel Kock, who was married to Scheepers’ daughter, Sara Johanna. A few kilometres from the Uitenhage Springs are the Amanzi Springs, which are used for commercial irrigation. Bifaces, a collective name for stone tools used in the Stone Age, have been found at Amanzi and are at least 250 000 years old. (Ref.2)


In 1799 the authorities of the British occupation of the Cape built a stone redoubt, 24 metres square, overlooking the mouth of the Baakens River and dominating the landing place of Algoa Bay. It was named Fort Frederick, after the Duke of York. A garrison was stationed there and this was the beginning of the present city which, with the landing of the 1820 Settlers, was visited by the acting Governor, Sir Rufane Shawe Donkin, on 6 June and named by him Port Elizabeth in memory of his beloved wife who at the age of 28 had died of a fever. (Ref 4)


Ref.1. Tony Murray. History of Rivers and Drainage in the Cape Metropolitan Area. 

Ref.2. Raymer, David Anthony. A HISTORY OF PORT ELIZABETH AND UITENHAGE’S WATER SUPPLY. Raymer, 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 3. Timeline: Water supply to the City: The first 300 years – circa

Ref 4. Discovering Southern Africa – T.V Bulpin

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