New water bill to force municipalities to provide clean drinking water

New water bill to enforce provision of clean drinking water. Picture: Jason Boud.

New water bill to enforce provision of clean drinking water. Picture: Jason Boud.

Published Jan 23, 2024


Cape Town - The government will soon force municipalities to provide clean drinking water to their residents if the amendment to the National Water Bill and the Water Services Bill are signed into law.

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said that the amendments to the two pieces of legislation would strengthen the role of the department as a regulator of the water and sanitation sectors and thus decisively address socio-economic challenges facing the country.

The amendments will empower the department to issue directives to non-compliant municipalities, and if these are not followed it allows the minister to appoint a suitable water services institution to take over the duties pertaining to water provision.

The first public consultations on the bill will be held on Tuesday, January 30, in the Northern Cape, followed by other consultations in all the provinces.

“The two legislations were gazetted in Government Notice 4097, which was published on November 17, and members of the public were invited to, within 60 days from the date of publication, make written comments on the draft amendment bills. The final date for submitting comments will be March 1,” the department said.

It said the objective of these public consultations is to conduct extensive consultations with the public and stakeholders and garner comments that are necessary to bring about legislation that will benefit current and future generations of the country by ensuring equitable water allocation to all and optimising the access and use of water and sanitation.

“This will ensure that the country’s water resources are managed, protected, used and conserved, while promoting equity and redressing past imbalances. The redress of past imbalances will ensure that all citizens of the country have access to water,” said DWS spokesperson Mavasa Wisane.

Anthea Jeffery, SA Institute of Race Relations head of Policy Research, said under the Water Services Amendment Bill, DWS plans to appoint hundreds of new water cadres to licence, monitor and direct its existing water cadres, many of whom were clearly incompetent and unaccountable.

“In December, the DWS’s release of the latest Blue, Green, and No Drop water reports showed that 47% of drinking water systems are in poor or critical condition; 66% of wastewater treatment plants are largely dysfunctional; and almost half the water supplied by municipalities is ‘non-revenue’ water that leaks out of pipes or is otherwise not paid for,” said Jeffery.

Jeffery said more cadres will be needed to enforce the initial rules by ensuring that all water service providers obtain their operating licences within 12 months.

“The licensing process will not be simple, for cadres will have to assess whether applicants are fully compliant with ‘institutional and governance arrangements’, demonstrate the necessary ‘financial sustainability and managerial capability’, and have the ‘technical competence to provide water services’, she said.

“The Services Bill is a transparent attempt to expand the governing party’s patronage machine in the run-up to a cliffhanger general election. The bill will make existing problems considerably worse by wasting scarce revenue on more cadres while further entrenching incompetence, corruption, and the flawed belief that ever greater state control is the optimum antidote to the state’s own delivery failures.”

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Cape Argus