South Africa’s tap water ‘world-class’

8 May 2012

South Africa’s drinking water is among the best in the world, and the country remains one of few in which water can still be consumed from the tap, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in Cape Town on Monday.

Releasing the 2012 Blue Drop report during the Water Institute of Southern Africa Conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Molewa said 98 of the country’s municipalities were awarded Blue Status this year, up from 66 last year.

The average national Blue Status score jumped from 72.9% last year to 87.6% this year.

The scores have increased year-by-year since the first Blue Drop report was released in 2009, when municipalities notched up a national average of 51.4%.

In all, 153 of South Africa’s 287 municipalities and 931 water systems were audited for this year’s report.

Not just a quality audit

Molewa stressed that just because a municipality was not awarded Blue Drop status, it did not mean that their water remained unfit for human consumption.

This is because Blue Drop certification goes beyond the quality of drinking water to include aspects such as risk management, operations and asset management of water services.

The programme is not a voluntary programme but an incentive-based regulatory initiative which requires water services institutions to provide information in line with the legislative requirements of Section 62 of the Water Services Act.

Top performing municipalities

In this year’s Blue Drop report, Ekurhuleni came out as the top municipality with a score of 98.95%, followed by the City of Johannesburg with 98.92% and Mogale City with 98.79%.

Ethekweni (Durban), Tlokwe in North West province and the City of Cape Town were the next highest scoring municipalities respectively.

Molewa commended the Victor Kanye Local Municipality (formerly Delmas) in Mpumalanga province, which increased its score from 18.26% last year to 80.07% this year.

She also congratulated the Thembisile Local Municipality, also in Mpumalanga, which increased its score from 27.77% to 78.30%.

15 municipalities warned

However, Molewa said she was concerned about the worst scoring municipality – Koukamma (5.6%) – and iKwezi (7.9%), both in the Eastern Cape, which are among 15 municipalities that have received warnings over the quality of their water.

People living in these municipalities “have been informed not to drink the tap water without improving the quality first by either boiling or using other methods of purification,” Molewa said, adding that her department was working closely with these municipalities to bring their water quality up to standard.

Molewa said that, despite the 15 warnings, her department now knew where the problems were and would be attending to them.

Water board, private sector involvement ‘key’

Helgard Muller, acting deputy director-general of policy and regulation in the department, said the involvement of water boards and the private sector were key to improving the management of South Africa’s water services.

While other countries which had water audits only looked at the quality of water, the department also considered risk management and asset management in the Blue Drop report.

Of the 98 municipalities that achieved Blue Drop certification, 38 were serviced by water boards and about 20 by the private sector.

The top performing province was Gauteng with a score of 98.1%, followed by the Western Cape (94.2%) and KwaZulu-Natal (92.9%).

The remaining six provinces all notched up scores below the national average of 87.6%, with Mpumalanga the worst performing province at 60.9%, followed by the Northern Cape (68.2%).

Source: BuaNews