Home News Accountability Key to Solving South Africa’s Water Woes, Says Expert

Accountability Key to Solving South Africa’s Water Woes, Says Expert

by Thaabit Kamaar

Johannesburg – South Africans nationwide have been contending with prolonged water shortages and interruptions for a while now. Tragically, some have even succumbed to a cholera outbreak last year due to the substandard quality of our drinking water.

Recent reports indicate that approximately two-thirds of our water reserves are polluted nationwide.

Julius Kleynhans, the Executive Manager of Social Innovation at WaterCAN, emphasised the gravity of this issue for South Africa despite our consistent rainfall and occasional flash floods, which have adversely affected citizens.

Like numerous other water experts, Kleynhans attributes the ongoing water crisis to multiple factors, including misallocation, mismanagement of funds, and governmental neglect.

However, he underscored that the breakdown of the country’s, now dysfunctional, wastewater treatment infrastructure lies at the heart of our challenges, with the lack of adequate treatment being a significant contributor to the current contamination of our water distribution systems.

“Our municipalities have significantly neglected our wastewater treatment works over the last decade. So much so that probably about 70% of our wastewater treatment works in the country are completely dysfunctional. Discharging raw sewage into our dams and rivers is where the big problem lies.”

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Hope at the End of the Pipeline

Despite the various challenges and concerns surrounding the country’s water security, Kleynhans is optimistic that the situation can be rectified if those accountable for the deterioration and dysfunctionality are held responsible.

An exemplary case is the Govan Mbeki Municipality, which incurred a R200 million fine for releasing untreated sewage into water bodies. This ruling was approved by numerous professionals, academics, and activists in the water and environmental sectors, as the municipality was found guilty of six counts of environmental violations.

Furthermore, Kleynhans stressed the importance of adequately allocating government funds earmarked for water-related initiatives. Vigilant oversight and monitoring are essential to prevent the wastage, misappropriation, and misuse of these funds.

He also emphasised the need for specialised, qualified personnel to oversee projects to ensure effective implementation.

“We don’t even have to get other countries to get involved. If our government’s good enough and they start using the talent that we have, because we’ve got the right people in South Africa to turn things around and fix it, they just need to have the will [to do so].”

Given the state of our water infrastructure and its detrimental effects on potable water, Kleynhans recommended that South Africans exercise additional caution before consuming tap water as a general guideline.

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