Load shedding has taken a toll on the South Africa economy, with many people scrambling to find alternatives to keeping the lights on.
However, the Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Mmusi Maimane, believes that we have bigger problems on the way.
“You’d think we’d be extra vigilant in preventing similar crises developing elsewhere, now that we can see the damaging effects of load-shedding. But the reality is, we are witnessing the exact same failures that crippled our electricity grid – infrastructure neglect, inadequate budgeting and a crippling skills shortage – unfold in the management of our water infrastructure,” said Maimane.
Maimane explained that soon South Africa could be facing planned water cuts, on top of the rolling black outs we already have to endure.
However, unlike electricity, there are no alternative water sources, or replacements.
Living in a dry country
Maimane said that South Africa is ranked the 30th driest country in the world, with only 8.6% of our rainwater available as surface water.
“And because of the way our water resources are geographically distributed, we have a real challenge in matching up supply and demand,” he said.
Besides not having enough water, the infrastructure that South Africa does have is ageing and neglected.
“The average water loss across our municipalities – which includes losses in pipes, inaccurate meter readings and unauthorised consumption – stands at 36%. In terms of water revenue, this amounts to a loss of more than R7 billion per year,” said Maimane.
According to Maimane the largest polluter of our water is not mining, manufacturing or any of the big industries.
“It is these dysfunctional municipalities themselves – their neglected water treatment plants end up pumping sewage straight back into our rivers and dams,” he said.
Maimane explained that at the Rooiwal treatment plant in Tshwane there are 108 megalitres of raw sewage sludge is being spilled into the Apies River every day.
Livestock in the area are dying as a result and boreholes over 100 metres deep are being polluted.
“It is clear that many of these municipalities simply do not have the managerial, technical or budgetary skills to provide this critical service. In the interest of their residents, it is necessary that they lose their status as Water Service Authorities and that this responsibility be entrusted to competent water boards,” said Maimane.
Maimane said that we simply cannot allow what happened to the energy security in South Africa to also happen to the water security.
“If we want to avoid nation-wide water-shedding, we’re going to need the minister to play open cards with us. Only if we know the full extent of the problem, can we all act in time to avoid a full-blown crisis,” he said.
14 July 2015
By Ashleigh Brown, journalist, justmoney.co.za