In the 2012 Blue Drop Water Awards assessment, conducted by the Department of Water Affairs, eThekwini’s water emerged as the best in KwaZulu-Natal and fourth nationally.

Water utilities are losing billions of rand through lost and stolen water in SA, while poor sanitation in Africa is leading to the deaths of millions of children through water-borne diseases.

This emerged from the four-day African Water Association conference, which started in Durban yesterday.

The water indaba, which has brought together leaders from African water utilities, heard that water was fast becoming a scarce resource mainly because of poor management on the continent.

Richard Holden, from SA’s Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, said rapid urbanisation in the country and other changes had added to SA’s water “stress”.

SA was facing a revenue shortfall of R2.6 billion to address its national water infrastructure backlog, he said. The country also had a poor and unsustainable billing system, with some people not paying for water. This meant that local authorities were owed more than R1bn for water that was used but not paid for.

“The customer of today benefits economically at the expense of the customer of the future, who will be faced with broken infrastructure or much higher tariffs or taxes to pay for its replacement,” said Holden.

Solutions

The president of the African Water Association, Duduzile Myeni, said there was a need for African solutions to the water crisis.

“Too often, when sourcing technology, no attention is paid to who will maintain it, and if the spares are available for maintenance. As a result, many schemes end up lasting little more than a year before failing to the detriment of our customers,” said Myeni.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nomusa Dube, said water was critical for the continent to be able to achieve food security.

“If we fail to provide water and to increase our capacity to manage our water resources, then we will fail to end poverty,” said Dube.

Sylvain Usher, the association’s secretary-general, said recent figures showed that 603 million Africans had access to drinking water, but warned that this did not match the increase in the continent’s population.

In 2006, 360 million Africans had access to adequate sanitation with more than |400 million needing access if the UN Millennium Development Goals concerning sanitation were to be met by 2015.

“With inadequate resources and weak governance, in Africa and South Asia over 10 million children are dying annually of readily preventable waterborne diseases,” said Usher.