The reliability of South Africa’s municipal water and sanitation services is deteriorating and the government is considering introducing amendments to the Water Services Act to mitigate a total collapse of services and infrastructure.
The act distinguishes between water services authorities and water service providers and requires municipalities to separately manage and account for the roles the two. It further requires water services authorities to ensure that water services providers provide access to efficient and sustainable water services to everyone.
“Almost all water service authorities have been failing to do this,” Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu revealed in a parliamentary written response recently.
Mchunu is expected to provide an update later today on the latest intervention measures undertaken by the department and the City of Tshwane to deal with the cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal.
Mchunu is also expected to release the Interim Blue Drop Certification Programme Report which calls for excellent drinking water quality.
However, in his written reply to Parliament, Mchunu said the deterioration in water services was made evident by the Green Drop and Blue Drop assessments. The Green Drop Certification status is a mark of excellence in the wastewater systems sector.
He said that to mitigate the total collapse of services and infrastructure, the Department of Water and Sanitation was strengthening its regulatory role over municipal water and sanitation services.
“During this financial year we will be consulting on updated and more comprehensive norms and standards for water and sanitation services, in terms of the Water Services Act,” he said.
Mchunu said the department would also publish a National Regulatory Dashboard showing the extent of compliance with the national norms and standards for water services for all water service authorities, drawing on existing monitoring information.
“We are also in the process of introducing standardised regulatory enforcement protocols to be implemented by all our regional offices, to make our regulatory actions more consistent,” he said.
One of the underlying causes of the decline in municipal water services, in terms of the reliability of service delivery and financial sustainability, was the non-implementation of certain key requirements of the Water Services Act by municipalities, Mchunu said.
“To address this, we are considering introducing some amendments to the Water Services Act, with the aim of further clarifying the roles, responsibilities and functions of water services authorities and water services providers; setting minimum standards for the functioning of water services providers, which must be enforced by water services authorities; and providing the minister with powers to regulate these matters,” he said.
Mchunu said the department would be consulting on these proposed amendments with a view to taking them through the cluster system to the Cabinet in this financial year.