WaterCAN commends Minister for reminding water services authorities to do their jobs or face the consequences
We hope to see improvements reflected in the next Blue Drop and Green Drop reports.
WaterCAN, a leading advocate for water conservation and safety, commends the Minister of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Minister Senzo Mchunu for confronting the alarming state of water in South Africa and warning water services authorities (WSAs) of their responsibilities to provide clean water or face prison terms or fines.
The minister addressed a two-day WSAs summit, convened by his department, and involving mayors, municipal Managers and water boards from across the nation, aimed at addressing the critical findings of last year’s Blue Drop and Green Drop reports.
The reports, which were published after years of failure to produce them, revealed a distressing decline in municipalities’ ability to supply clean water to residents and treat wastewater effectively. The reports exposed the severity of the crisis, highlighting a disturbing trend of compromised water quality, with 46% of drinking systems not complying with microbiological standards, 67.6% of wastewater treatment works failing to clean raw sewage and 47.4% of water lost due to leaks or unaccounted for.
WaterCAN, which declared a water crisis last year following the release of the Blue Drop and Green Drop reports, notes that its concerns were initially dismissed by the Minister. However, the recent summit, marked by the Minister’s transparency about the challenges, acknowledges the gravity of the situation. The Minister disclosed shocking instances of managers at wastewater treatment plants bypassing proper procedures and discharging untreated sewage directly into rivers, because of failing infrastructure.
“It is heartening to witness the Minister’s forthrightness in acknowledging the challenges faced by our water systems,” said Dr Ferrial Adam, Executive Manager at WaterCAN. “The admission of untreated sewage discharge by government-operated wastewater treatment plants is a stark revelation, underscoring the urgent need for accountability. Government is currently the top polluter of our river systems and corrective action is needed to stop the polluting our environment.”
The Minister pledged intervention to rectify wastewater treatment plants contributing to the alarming statistic of over 50 000 litres of untreated sewage flowing into South Africa’s rivers every second.
He also promised that regional operational centres will be set up in all provinces where the public will be able to report water and sewerage problems, and warned that DWS would get involved if local authorities failed to act. The operational centres are now live and the contact details are: toll free 0800 200 200 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WaterCAN emphasises the importance of collaboration between government bodies, mayors, municipal managers, and communities to address this crisis collectively. However, the water issue will not be solved by government alone, so government must work with civil society and the many groups around the country working on our water resources.
WaterCAN urges municipal leaders to take immediate and decisive action, and be aware of the potential criminal consequences of neglecting their responsibility to provide safe and clean water to communities.
“We implore municipal leaders to prioritise the welfare of their communities over political considerations. The DWS must be allowed to execute its mandate effectively to address this crisis,” said Dr Adam.
The Water Services Amendment Bill, currently before parliament, will give the Minister greater power to issue directives to failing water authorities and even authorise the take-over of water duties.
WaterCAN hopes the water services authorities will take the Minister’s call seriously and that we will see an improvement in the systems reflected in the next Blue Drop and Green Drop reports.
WaterCAN remains committed to monitoring progress and advocating for sustainable solutions to ensure the availability of safe water for all South Africans.
WaterCAN is a dedicated environmental organisation committed to preserving and protecting South Africa’s water resources. With a mission to promote responsible water management and raise awareness about water quality, the organisation empowers communities to become proactive stewards of their local water sources. If you would like to support our work, kindly Donate Here.