Reclaim Camissa – the place of sweet waters…

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RECLAIM CAMISSA proposes a stewardship for the Table Valley’s water resource to ensure that people are able to enjoy the right to safe and sufficient water and that this water source remains in good ecological health.

So says Caron von Zeil, project leader for Reclaim Camissa, one of the projects under the Cape Town Partnership’s Sustainable Cape Town project.

Caron’s vision is to ensure that by 2020, the people of Cape Town and those that visit will be enabled to gather around the common heritage of Camissa, the very waters that defined the location of the City of Cape Town, reflecting the public past and embracing a new civic infrastructure – this time inspired by a deliberate recognition and respect for the social / cultural and ecological significance of this water.

“Reclaim Camissa will have put into place the infrastructure to connect people to this vital resource, with beautiful parks; pedestrian walkways; and urban public places by celebrating the waters that link mountain to sea, past to future, and people to the environment,” says Caron.

Caron believes that the project will ensure that water will once again flow through the City providing a safe pedestrian structure for the city and linking a series of green and urban open public spaces. “Public awareness will be raised through enhancing the city with these place-making elements (way finders) of the cultural landscape. In the renewal and maintenance of this system, employment will be created and the usage of the resource as a public asset will contribute to a sense of community. This will organically give rise to other developments (for example mixed use and higher density living areas) on the edges of these public landscapes; together with increased property values along the commercial edges,” she says.

As part of the Sustainable Cape Town programme, Reclaim Camissa will host its own mini-website where visuals, maps and ongoing research material will be published on a continuous basis. She will also identify various social capital projects which will be explored and set up with other CIDs in the greater Cape Town area.

Where it all started

In 2006, Caron, together with Janet Manca and Colleen Stolzman formed the Oranjezicht Heritage Society to save the old Oranjezicht Farmstead (Homestead Park). This park is a vital clue in the Reclaim Camissa project as it was one of the original farms of the earliest settlement providing sustenance to locals and passing ships. The single most important water source, in the form of the Stadtsfontein.

Much of central Cape Town’s water and cultural history originates with the spring on the once largest farm of the Table Valley which was lead to Wagenaar’s dam at the old shoreline (now embedded in the Golden Acre Shopping Mall), where it was delivered to the ships that called. It was the waters from this spring that affected the first environmental law of this nation:
Placcaat 12 of 1655: “Niet boven de stroom van de spruitjie daer de schepen haer water halen te wassen en deselve troubel te maken”.

According to Caron this spring today spews in excess of 2.4 million litres – almost enough for every man, woman and child of Cape Town’s more than three million population to have a litre of water a day – of potentially potable water, directly into the storm water system.

Another interesting fact, according to Caron’s research, is that the water from Platteklip and the 13 artesian springs in the city bowl, sustained since settlement, provided the water for Cape Town’s population and trading ships, until it was scrapped from the asset resource register in the late 1990s. There were more people living in the City bowl up until the 1970s, than do today – and this resource sustained them.

After various presentations, fund raising initiatives and many papers, the Cape Town Partnership recognised the project as one of its “Five big ideas” in its Central City Development Strategy.

In February this year Caron also met with Alderman Clive Justice – the Mayco Water & Utilities Portfolio. This meeting prompted the way forward by forming a Public Benefit Organisation in the form of a non-profit trust to collaborate with the CoCT, as a key partnership, in achieving the goals of the project – which they whole heartedly support.

6 Responses

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  1. matt says

    What happened to the Rivers flowing below Adderley Street and the Heerengracht. In 1905 this Canal exploded due to a gas leak.
    Where was the Kaizergracht, where the Kaizer once walked in the City. What happened to it? And Queen Victoria Street where the Queen went for her Sunday walk. Have you seen some of the beautiful Architecture and the amount of money and time the City has invested to close the (stinking) Canals after the King and Queen left the country. Let’s open and renovate some of these Gentlemen’s walks.They are the main reason for Cape Towns existence. Especially the walk that is now below Orange, Grey’s, Queen Victria and Wale Street. Oh’ and the only visitors today are the old oak trees and if they could speak they would have a story to tell.

  2. Caron von Zeil says

    Anyone wanting to obtain more information as regards RECLAIM CAMISSA – we are contactable via our FACEBOOK PAGE:

  3. Simisha says

    Dear Caron.
    I was quite fascinated when I heard about this at the recent FLOW event that was held at the Two Oceans aquarium.
    Please can you tell me what the reason for taking the river of the books was, and why the City deemed it unnecessary to utilise the water.
    Thanks for the great work.

  4. Sharron P says

    Wow this is terrific! I’ve often wondered why something isn’t done just to catch the rivers of winter rain water that run down the streets of the Atlantic suburbs in winter – right into the sea. Granted, it is ecologically correct for this rainwater to go to the sea, but in a city that is short of water in summer, it seemed to me we could use at least some of it. But to recognise the natural springs that run underground and put them to use is a brilliant idea, and such common sense. One wonders why it has taken so long! The early pioneers knew how to do it!! I love the way it will create more nature in the city. It can only enhance Cape Town’s great energy. Thank you Caron.

  5. Dr. Jerome Davis says


    I think that this is the most exciting project in the city to date. In our climate where we have excess rainfall in winter and not enough in summer, the fact that we have a giant sponge called table mountain which delivers a buffered, sustainable supply of clean water year round is exceptional. That the city is not making this priority number 1 is mind boggling. Nature holds all the answers. We just need to be humble enough to ask.

  1. Cape Town for World Design Capital 2014 linked to this post on July 13, 2010

    [...] Camissa. The place of sweet waters. Another name for Cape Town. Another connection. Water was the reason why a settlement was established here in the 17th century, and is now behind a design project that will enable us to claim back that which is good. The Reclaim Camissa project will form the base of an infrastructure that will connect the Central City to this vital resource, resulting in beautiful parks lining pedestrian walkways and urban public places, celebrating the waters that link mountain to sea, past to future, and people to the environment. [...]

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