14 April 2010
South Africa is shoring up the security of its water supply by ensuring the completion of seven major new water projects around the country by 2014, Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said at a pre-budget briefing in Cape Town this week.
The seven new projects include the Mokolo augmentation project to supply water to the planned Medupi Power station in Lephalele in Limpopo province, and the Mooi-Mgeni Transfer Scheme project, which would include the construction of the Spring Grove dam around eThekwini/Durban and Umgungundlovu in KwaZulu-Natal.
Sonjica added that the government had no plans to raise the price of water, while pointing out that South Africa was among a few countries in the world where the tap water was safe to drink.
Desalination, refuse water usage
Sonjica said that with impending climate change, the country also had to consider other means of securing its water supply.
“The problem is that water has been looked at as an after-affect when we plan for development, and we are trying to change that,” said Sonjica, adding that her department was considering desalination of sea water as a possible option.
The department was using the rehabilitated a unit on the West Coast which had been in use for over 20 years, and was also putting to use a unit in Sedgefield near Knysna in the Western Cape. Nelson Mandela Municipality/Port Elizabeth was also interested in using desalination technology.
She said the department was busy drafting a policy on desalination, but that the drought along the Western Cape Garden Route had stalled the plan.
Sonjica said the government would also be encouraging reuse of water, which the town of George was already implementing.
Pilot water courts
In addition, four special “water courts” would be set up across the country and would run as pilot projects from May in a bid to crack down on those that committed water abuses.
Sonjica said about 200 special prosecutors had been trained, added that she expected these courts to operate similarly to Labour Courts, in that they would only operate at particular times.
Commenting on illegal water use, the department’s deputy director-general, Cornelius Ruiters, said a full-time unit had been dedicated to compliance and monitoring, and the department was engaging with the Department of Agriculture to combat illegal water use.
Ruiters said water had been stolen at Mokolo, Berg and Olifants catchment areas, and that 250-million cubic metres of water had been illegally obtained over one year from Vaal.