This is why we need the No Drop reports: to watch over aging water systems
Rand Water and municipalities leak water and money
All levels of government can no longer ignore the water infrastructure crisis that leaves communities across the country, and now in Gauteng, with unreliable water supply.
Rand Water’s briefing on the Gauteng water crisis on 21 October 2022 must be welcomed and the CEO must be applauded for an open and transparent briefing. However, the state of water resources requires urgent action and funding.
“Rand Water seems to be doing and saying the right things. So wherein lies the problem? The real challenge comes when the water is handed over to the municipalities. We know that of the 4600 megalitres (Ml) supplied every day, we are losing almost 2000Ml because of leaking pipes and ageing infrastructure. Government must prioritise the ‘No Drop’ report and in the short term focus on fixing leaks,” says Dr Ferrial Adam, manager of WaterCAN.
The No Drop reports assesses how much clean drinking water is being lost through leaks in municipalities. It is important as it not only provides information on leaks and weak infrastructure but also of the revenue being spent to clean the water in the first place. It is almost 10 years since the last report was done. A No Drop report must be done now to put a spotlight on the weak parts of the water system.
Rand Water has been allowed to increase the amount of water it is abstracting from the Vaal Dam from 4300Ml a day to 4600Ml a day in response to the water shedding crisis in Gauteng. In addition, Rand Water says that it will be spending R28 billion over the next five years on bulk water infrastructure for 17 million consumers. This is welcome, but it is a short-term solution.
What is urgently needed is for leaks in both the water infrastructure and the municipal payment systems to be addressed, and for stronger financial control over water infrastructure projects, particularly at local government level.
The briefing highlighted the fact that municipalities are struggling to pay for the water and that debtors days have moved from 30 days to 80 days for most municipalities. Emfuleni Municipality has unpaid bills for Rand Water outstanding for 237 days. “The lack of payment by municipalities is a serious concern. We have been underspending on our water and sanitation systems for years and if we continue on this path, we will have a completely broken system. Joburg Water is supposed to be spending R23 billion for 6.5 million consumers, but they don’t have that money so where is this going to come from?” says Adam.
The country is at a tipping point with regards to our water. If government does not address the water crises urgently, not only in Gauteng but across the country, we could have a failed water system in five to 10 years. Citizens can play a role as well by being more mindful about saving water, but we need to put more pressure on national government to hold failing municipalities accountable.
A voice note from Dr Ferrial Adam here.