More people with access to safe water

1 September 2011

Ninety-three percent of South African households had access to safe water in 2010, Statistics SA said on Tuesday.

This had improved from 88.7% in 2002, according to statistics in the General Household Survey.

These figures do not take into account the distance people had to travel to reach water, and regarded safe water as piped, tap and borehole water.

The Eastern Cape had the lowest access to safe water in 2010 at 74%. It had, however, shown remarkable progress from 59% access in 2002, the report said. The Western Cape had the best access in 2010, at 99%.

Having access to water does not mean that safe water is easy to access. Only 45% of those with access to water actually had it in their dwellings. Limpopo province was the worst-off at 14%, followed by North West at 25% and Mpumalanga at 29%.

Gauteng, the country’s fastest-growing province, had shown a steady decline in households with access to water since 2004, with the lowest percentage in 2010, at 89%.

“This could possibly be attributed to an increase in informal dwellings in the large metropolitan areas of Gauteng making it difficult for the metropolitan councils to keep up with the need for safe water supply services,” the report said.

Relationship between quality and payment

Payment for municipal water services had declined nationally, from 62% in 2002 to 47% in 2010. It was unclear exactly why, but could be due to the tough economic conditions since 2008 and an increase in government support for indigent households, Stats SA said.

“Households who did not pay for their water were more likely to say that their water had a bad taste, was not safe and had bad smells compared to those who did pay,” Stats SA found.

“There is therefore a relationship between water quality and probability to pay for water services.”

In 2010, 59% of households used flush toilets connected to a public sewerage system. This was up from 56% in 2002. Households with no toilet facilities dropped from ten percent in 2002 to five percent in 2010.

The government had not yet managed to eliminate the use of bucket toilets, although its use had dropped from 2.5% to 0.8% over the reference period. Stats SA said this was because as soon as government got rid of bucket toilets in one area, another new settlement without proper sanitation would spring up.

Thirty-thousand households were surveyed in face-to-face interviews.

Sapa