The sustainability of water resources relies on the protection of dams, says the writer. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

The escalating disquiet, with growing evidence of incidents of vandalism of water infrastructure across the country, provides a compelling reason for all major dams to be classified as national key points.

South Africa is not only a water-scarce country, but the limited water resources it has are unevenly distributed.

More than anyone else, communities in rural areas are disproportionately affected by this state of affairs.

In the urban areas where residents receive water, they invariably face challenges of water quality as a result of pollution, lack of maintenance and the wanton destruction of dams’ infrastructure.

So great is the malicious destruction of infrastructure at dams that this calls for not only urgent, but decisive action to be taken to avoid water challenges morphing into a crippling crisis.

The dams require some level of protection and the only sensible solution is to declare these strategic resources national key points.

By affording adequate protection to dams, we can to some extent alleviate water shortages and not use our strained fiscal resources to replace infrastructure that has been destroyed.

Efforts should be aimed at building on the existing infrastructure to make water accessible to the needy.

It would be an injustice to those who do not currently enjoy access to water to remain in this situation while resources meant for their development are instead channelled to fix infrastructure that benefits those who already have access to water.

Until we declare our dams key points, all efforts at co-ordinated planning and management of water will fall flat.

If dams remain exposed to vandalism, it would affect the amount of water and quality of it for the current and, even worse, future generations.

It is for these reasons that Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu must be supported in her efforts to have dams declared national key points.

She has noted that the way we relate to water infrastructure has an impact on whether or not we end up as a country that buckles under water scarcity.

As a country, we are equal to the task of building the most amazing infrastructure. We boast some of the best infrastructure in the world. However, we have been shown to lack discipline to protect this remarkable infrastructure on which our economy and lives depend.

Briefing journalists at the Imbizo Centre in Parliament following a debate on her department’s budget vote, Sisulu said: “We have built world-class dams and we need to protect them.”

Classifying our major dams as key points would also go a long way towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals, which are made up of eight targets that must be reported to the UN.

Water, as one of the critical national assets, must be provided to all citizens and must be of sufficient quantity and quality to meet basic human needs.

The sustainability of water resources relies on the protection of dams, because however smart and innovative we are, there’s no life without water.

* Sithole is a communicator at the Department of Water and Sanitation, Gauteng region

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media