OECD: SA needs avert water losses

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Johannesburg - South Africa should empower agencies to start managing water-catchment areas and curb losses for a life-sustaining resource that’s in increasingly short supply, the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation said.

Leakage from the country’s aging water-distribution infrastructure is worsening scarcity woes, the Paris-based organization said in its first environmental performance review for South Africa, published today on its website.

“Water-resources management, a national responsibility implemented through regional offices, isn’t adequately integrated with the provision of water services, which is a municipal responsibility,” it said.

Establishing agencies would “ensure they better integrate water-resources management, the provision of water services and land use.”

A fourth of South African river ecosystems and almost half of its wetland areas are critically endangered, the OECD said.

The quality of surface water is “particularly poor” around urban areas while groundwater and surface-water contamination from flooding of closed mines is a “serious threat”

Acid water seeping from shuttered gold mines is rising in Johannesburg and the government in July said it would start pumping the liquid out by the end of this year.

The city underwent a gold-mining boom that lasted more than a century from the 1890s.

Water has been progressively filling subterranean cavities under the country’s biggest city, according to a study by the University of the Witwatersrand published in 2001. - Bloomberg News

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