21 May 2007
The South African government has started a massive campaign to reduce the high levels of losses in the country’s water distribution system.
Speaking during her department’s R5.3-billion budget vote speech in the National Assembly last week, Water Minister Lindiwe Hendricks said there was still “unacceptably high levels of water losses in our system, high levels of wastage and inefficient use of water”.
Some of the interventions being planned to curb wastage includes a national water-wise campaign, the investigation of the possible development of water conservation and demand management regulations and the possibility of introducing a national fund to support municipalities and other qualifying water users to implement water saving technologies.
In addition, ministerial awards will be held next year to recognise those who have excelled in the areas of water saving and management, while a National Water Use Efficiency Information System will be set up to share ideas and approaches to improving the state of water use in the country.
Hendricks said the new pricing strategy for charges for water use, that came into effect on 1 April this year, makes provision for, amongst other things, the establishment of a waste discharge charge system that is based on “a polluter pays” principle.
“This system aims to promote the efficient use of water by recovering costs associated with mitigating resource quality impacts of waste discharge on our water resources,” she said.
In what was her first budget speech, Hendricks said that she had learnt over the past year just how important water, sanitation and forestry was to society, “and the contribution these sectors play in economic development, social upliftment and in our quality of life.
By contrast we are well aware of the degradation that results from lack of access to such basic services as clean water and adequate sanitation.”
She said that the impact of the department’s activities over the past financial year, in collaboration with municipalities and other partners, saw a further 1.2-million people being given access to basic water supply, 250 000 households receiving sanitation, and 74 000 buckets being eradicated.
“With the increased budget allocation of 19.9% in this financial year, improved cooperation with municipalities, and the increased drive by my department, we should see even greater impact being made during 2007/08,” she added.
The Free Basic Water policy continued to have a positive impact with an estimated 76% of households benefiting from it.
“While some are clamouring for an increase in the amount of free basic water allocated it is imperative that we first address the 7.2-million people who remain without access to clean water,” said the Minister.
She said that the Working for Water programme, which uses community labour to remove alien invasive plants from South Africa’s river courses and water sheds, cleared over 7 900 square kilometres of land during the past financial year.
In the process, it provided over 1.8-million days of employment for 29 000 people and, with a budget of R387-million, there were plans to expand the programme under the Jobs for Growth programme.
“This will achieve the dual objective of creating employment while also contributing to improved water flows, rehabilitating our environment, and opening up agricultural land for more productive uses.”
Part of the Working for Water programme is Operation Vuselela, where DWAF has partnered with the Department of Defence to clear invasive species from more than 5 500 hectares of Defence Force land, and providing 44 000 days of employment to military veterans.