There’s no water crisis in SA but municipal failure to provide water

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu during round table discussions with The Star reporters at the headquarters of Independent Newspapers. Picture: Itumeleng English Independent Newspapers

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu during round table discussions with The Star reporters at the headquarters of Independent Newspapers. Picture: Itumeleng English Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 22, 2023


South Africa has no water crisis but a water provision crisis due to old and dilapidated municipal water infrastructure, as well as operational failures crippling local government.

This is according to Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu, who said his department is working hard to ensure that the country does not have a water shortage crisis by 2030, as predicted by pundits.

Mchunu, who visited Independent Media on Wednesday, admitted that even though South Africa is a water scarce country and has over the past few years experienced water challenges, his department is on course to intervene through new infrastructure programmes across the country.

Mchunu, who shared some of the challenges regarding the ministry’s mandate of managing the country’s water generation compliance and regulation, said complications to ensuring water security are hampered by incapacity, corruption and other challenges at grassroots level.

“It has become common cause that water provision, which is the work of the municipalities, has deteriorated over the years. It is factual that water, like many other services in local government and municipalities, has declined and deteriorated over a period of time,” Mchunu said.

The minister said the department was sometimes forced to intervene against offending municipalities and local governments in order to help communities with their issues.

With the country having one of the biggest efficiencies in managing water infrastructure, the minister, who was in the company of Rand Water CEO Sipho Mosai, indicated that the province lost at least 35-40% of water due to leakages.

“Gauteng municipalities lose on average 35 to 40% percent that they buy from Rand Water. We lose too much water. Mosai echoed the minister’s sentiments, adding that more than 1.7 billion litres go to waste daily due to leakages.

“We lose 1.7 billion litres of water a day due to leakages and water inefficiencies. I am always in contact through daily meetings with municipalities in a bid to find solutions to these problems,“ Mosai said.

Mosai revealed that what causes the country’s water provision challenges was lack of preventative measures to deal with these challenges.

It is reported that South Africa consumes 233l of water per person per day on average, compared to the world average of 173l.

Mosai added that in Gauteng, the average person uses about 305l per day, while more than 40% of the province’s water is estimated to be lost due to leakages ‒ which may partly explain the high average demand per person.

In the national interest, Mchunu said it was misleading to refer to challenges as a crisis.

“I understand that water affects everyone differently and individuals get affected when they don’t have water for days. However, I urge that we do not treat this as a crisis. Whenever possible, please do not refer to these as a crisis as we are doing everything in our power to resolve some of the water challenges that have been there,” he said.

Water and Sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu, having a round table discussions with The Star reporter's and the headquarters of the Independent Newspapers. Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers

The minister added that his department would in due course establish a centralised national water resources infrastructure agency to deal with some of the issues affecting water security, management and bulk water service challenges.

“DWS is establishing the National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency to leverage large-scale investments in national water resource infrastructure that are required to ensure that South Africa has sufficient bulk water supply now and in future,” said Mchunu.

The minister added that water boards were mandated to assist municipalities with potable bulk water infrastructure and services.

Some of the water projects the minister has embarked on to ensure SA is water secure include:

* R40bn Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project for Gauteng

* R26bn uMkhomazi Water Project in KwaZulu-Natal

* R4bn Phase 2A of Mokolo Crocodile (West) Water Augmentation Project

* (MCWAP 2A) in the North West & Limpopo

* R10bn Vaal Gamagara in the Northern Cape

* R8bn Mzimvubu Water Project in the Eastern Cape

* R1.2bn Berg River Voelvlei Augmentation Scheme in the Western Cape

* R4bn raising of Clanwilliam Dam in the Western Cape

* Loskop/ Moutse/ Thembisile Hani Scheme

The Star

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