South Africa: Warnings of water crisis
A new report by South Africa’s Opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) has warned that the country is in danger of a severe water crisis should the findings of a recent survey in water-stressed areas be ignored by the government.
The report, prepared after a four-month survey on the state of South Africa’s water sector, says there are serious challenges hampering the achievement of access to water and increased supply, especially in poor urban areas.
It says the provinces of Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape have water with an E. coli content 320 times higher than is fit for wastewater treatment. The investigation was triggered by an outbreak of diarrhoea in Brits in the North West earlier this year, which affected 500 people – leading to deaths of three children.
The report says in some areas water contamination is even more serious and cites the example of Rietfontein in the North West, where water has an E. coli content 1000 times higher than wastewater treatment limits.
Inadequate water supply has in the past led to clashes among communities hit by the shortage and the report gives the example of Mothutlung, also in the North West Province, where four people died as police violently broke up a protest against the municipality and its inability to supply water.
DA also says that in Makana in the Eastern Cape, ‘there has been a complete collapse of the water supply infrastructure, with the town experiencing regular water outages. In most cases these problems are caused by a collapse in the local water treatment infrastructure, or the local sewage infrastructure.’
‘It is clear that is not a single departmental failure that is at the heart of the problem,’ the DA report continued. ‘We therefore call for the establishment of an inter-ministerial task team consisting of the ministries for Water and Sanitation, Health, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, together with water and sanitation experts, health experts, engineers and specialists in the field of water purification to investigate the extent of water contamination and to make recommendations to the Minister of Water and Sanitation as to how to address these challenges.’
Everything must be done to ensure every South African has easy access to clean, running water that is reliable and safe, the DA stressed.