Joburg Advocacy Group (JAG): Now a Water Supply Crisis Looms

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Now a Water Supply Crisis Looms

If you think acid mine drainage (AMD) and sewage in the rivers will never affect you directly, think again.

In a statement issued on 6 December, the South African Revenue Protection Association reports that South Africa's bulk water infrastructure is in danger of collapse.

Four hundred "infrastructure assets" that supply raw bulk water are decades old and are leading to contamination of water sources. And that's without the possibility of processed AMD being pumped into the drinking water system or the risk of major reservoirs being contaminated by sewage and heavy metals in the polluted river system.

Worse still, economic pressures have forced the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs to scale down its capital spending on water schemes and infrastructure refurbishment radically. In the next three years, it will receive only R4.8bn of the R6bn it requires from Treasury for infrastructure refurbishment, although it has been assured of R6.1bn to expand regional bulk infrastructure.

A local government water and sanitation audit report released earlier this year also showed showed that 85% of South Africa's waste water treatment works had a "limited remaining useful life", while 90% of water treatment works were dilapidated.

In the meantime, water quality in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and the Northern Cape is now below acceptable health levels (source: SARPA Journal, 6 December 2009).

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