FROM OUR ARCHIVES
Water cuts in your area? Readers reveal the frustrating impact across SA
Across numerous SA municipalities, there are signals of a water crisis, as illustrated by our survey that looked into water cuts. While there are many attributing factors to the water crisis, many readers can’t help but wonder if anything is being done to ensure the nation is water secure.
At least one or more cities or towns in every province of the country have experienced water shedding in the last month, according to results of a reader survey conducted by Daily Maverick.
Daily Maverick conducted the survey to determine how our readers have been impacted by water cuts. The survey was responded to by 1,041 readers over a period of three weeks. More than half (55.8%) of the respondents said they had been impacted by water cuts in the last month.
The survey received diverse responses from across South Africa’s nine provinces but most respondents were said to be living in Gauteng.
Rand Water imposed stage 2 water restrictions in the province as a result of power failures at the utility’s wastewater treatment plant in Vereeniging, which had a knock-on effect on water systems and reservoirs. Other reasons for the imposed water restrictions included the heat wave experienced in some parts of the province and the impact of ageing, incapacitated water infrastructure and leakages.
See a report here on our reader survey results relating to the Gauteng water cuts: Water’s back on in Gauteng – bur for how long, residents wonder
However, the water crisis remains a nationwide problem, according to a report article by Earth.org and corroborated by our survey responses.
Four years ago, Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ became the focus of South Africa’s water crisis, but while its circumstances were certainly unique, the causes of its water problems were not — high demand and inadequate supply. For years, water cuts and extreme shortages have been the norm in many parts of Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), Polokwane, Tsakane, Emalahleni and Durban.
In October 2022, SABC reported on the continued water woes of Kimberly residents in the Northern Cape. Residents said they have been experiencing an unreliable water supply from Sol Plaatje Municipality since December 2020. They claim water is cut off in the evenings and restored in the mornings. Meanwhile, in Phuthaditjhaba (formerly Qwaqwa) in the Free State, residents continue to struggle with dirty water, dry taps, and constant water interruptions.
According to a study by University of North-West scholars Germarie Viljoen and Kobus van der Walt, “Worldwide, an estimated 663 million people do not have access to sufficient and safe water for domestic use, and the demand is on the increase.
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“It is estimated that the world will have to cope with a 40% water supply shortfall by 2030, which will unavoidably affect the availability of drinking water, sanitation and food production. South Africa faces a particularly gloomy water reality. Not only is South Africa plagued by severe drought conditions, but it also has a poor record of water conservation, outdated and inadequate water treatment infrastructure, and lingering concerns about the quality and degradation of the already limited volume of available water.
“South Africa’s political history, characterised by a reality of unequal access to water, adds additional and unique challenges as far as water resource regulation is concerned. Following the advent of the constitutional era, a novel legal framework for water resources regulation was developed in South Africa,” the study reads.
What are some impacts of the water crisis?
Alluding to the impact, Daily Maverick readers said constant water cuts were disruptive, compromised business and life in general and stymied chances of recovery from the ‘Covid blues’.
“In rural Free State, we have been battling water cuts for a very long time. Intermittent supply is the norm. Infrastructure is falling apart, load shedding and municipal ineptitude affect the pumping of water to treatment plants, poor maintenance of pumps….we have it all. Without boreholes and good neighbourliness, most of our town will be without potable water most of the time. We have given up on relying on our municipality a very long time ago,” said one reader.
Another reader said; “In Rosebank, Cape Town, endless pipe bursts (old infrastructure) and the City of Cape Town fixing only three metres at a time until the next burst is normal.”
Citizens rely on water for food, health and livelihoods. The absence of water or supply of dirty or contaminated water can be hazardous to health and well-being. It also qualifies as a breach of the right to water described in section 27(1) b of the constitution.
Government response to ensure water security
As of the beginning of 2022, government claimed it was embarked on a process of institutional reform in capacitating the Department of Water and Sanitation and reviewing water boards as far as their mandates are concerned. It was also aiming to ensure that they serve municipalities in terms of the District Development Model (DDM).
The department has highlighted the following as its key priorities to support the sustainable provision of water services;
- Establishing a national water resource infrastructure agency;
- Strengthening regulation in the water sector by reinstating the Blue Drop, Green Drop and No Drop water quality monitoring systems and;
- Engineering dams and ‘importing’ water through inter-basin transfer schemes.
However, giving progress feedback last month to the portfolio committee on the turnaround plans to address Water Trading Entity challenges and its audit outcome, water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu said the funds currently available from the fiscus and the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority are ‘insufficient’, compared to the amount required for water resource infrastructure to meet the country’s economic and social needs.
Mchunu said, “R10.2-billion per annum is required for developing national water resource infrastructure, and the refurbishment backlog was estimated to require an estimated R36-billion.” DM
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