South Africa turns attention to water

6 November 2014

The Giyani Water Treatment Works will bring clean running water to 55 villages in Mopani District Municipality, in Limpopo province.

The works were opened on 31 October during the Presidential Siyahlola Monitoring Programme, two months after Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane visited Giyani and promised residents that when she returned, they would have access to clean water.

The Giyani water treatment plant is one of 26 water treatment works that supply the district. The scope of the project, which is 98% complete, includes the construction of an additional capacity of 6.7 megalitres a day, as well as the refurbishment of the existing 30 megalitre plant. Earlier in the day, President Jacob Zuma visited the home of Emily Sambo in Bonwani village, where he opened a water tap that had been installed on her property. Until now, Sambo, 68, has had to walk a long distance to fetch water from a river.

Speaking to residents at the Giyani Stadium later, Zuma admitted that there was a shortage of water in Mopani District. The scale of dependence on boreholes illustrated the gravity of this challenge; even hospitals had to use boreholes, half of which were not working. South Africa was becoming a water scarce country, he explained, in part in the result of broader changes caused by climate change and global warming.

“It is not only this province which faces water shortage challenges, but many others in the country do. Where there is a shortage of water, sanitation is also poor and consequently health is affected. In other areas the biggest challenge is ageing infrastructure.”

Interventions to water challenges

Many interventions have been undertaken to stabilise the water supply over the past two decades. Among the 18 Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) – which fall under the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordination Commission, established by Zuma in 2012 to co-ordinate and fast-track infrastructure projects – is one specifically focused on water and sanitation infrastructure.

SIP18 has a 10-year plan to address the estimated backlog of adequate water to supply 1.4 million households and 2.1 million households to basic sanitation. The project involves provision of sustainable supply of water to meet social needs and support economic growth. Projects will provide for new infrastructure, rehabilitation and upgrading of existing infrastructure, as well as improve management of water infrastructure.

In addition, SIP 6, the integrated municipal infrastructure project, focuses on developing national capacity to help the 23 least resourced districts (19 million people) to address all the maintenance backlogs and upgrades required in water, electricity and sanitation bulk infrastructure.

Among the interventions have been the expansion of water infrastructure, building of dams and refurbishing and improving old infrastructure. Zuma has also said the government is increasing the Municipal Infrastructure Grant so municipalities can expand service delivery.

“In the past five months, we have attended to water and sanitation challenges in places such as Bloemhof, Ngobi and Ngaka Modiri Molema District in the North West Province, Makana District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, Hobhouse in the Free State and Umkhanyakude District Municipality in KZN among others,” he said in Giyani.

Given the scarcity of water, people were urged to save water by fixing leaks and drips, and reporting any wastage is reported to the authorities “without delay”.

In March, the R3-billion, 347-million cubic metre De Hoop Dam was opened in Sekhukhune, also in Limpopo. The De Hoop Dam is the 13th largest dam in South Africa and one of the largest to be built in the country in the last 20 years.

At the time, Zuma said a new pipeline from Jane Furse to Lobethal, catering for the villages of Ga-Mashabela, Diphagane, Ga-Phahla, Ga-Marishane, Tisane and Mamone, was 70% complete, and a pipeline from Mooihoek to Tubatse was 100% complete. “The bulk distribution system connected to the dam will ensure that, over a period of time, all the people of this area will be served with an uninterrupted water supply, which is the ultimate goal of government.”

It followed the opening of the Spring Grove Dam near Rosetta in KwaZulu-Natal in November 2013. In that province, dams are expected to open soon in Ntambanane and Mkhanyakude.

Five million people are expected to benefit from the Spring Grove Dam which will pump water to the uMgungundlovu District, eThekwini, Ilembe, Sisonke and Ugu. “South Africa remains one of the 30 driest countries in the world. We have the National Development Plan, which states what our country should look like in 2030. It says all households should have clean water supply by 2030,” he said.

The path to 2014

Released in March, the 20 Year Review Report stated that significant progress had been made since 1994 to ensure equitable access to water. According to the report, the process of water allocation has been reformed to ensure equitable access and to ensure that old legislations have been addressed. In recent years, a number of new waste water treatment schemes have been completed and existing ones refurbished.

Strategies have been developed to guide future water resource planning, management and investment requirements, based on an assessment of the country’s water balance against projected future needs. The key issues include a greater focus on water conservation and water demand management as the country cannot afford to waste any more water.

To secure water supply, several bulk water projects were completed between 1994 and 2013, including the Lesotho Highlands Water Project and a network of water-transfer schemes to transport water from areas of relative abundance to those of relative scarcity. The report acknowledges that although South Africa is one of the few countries in the world in which tap water is safe to drink, challenges remain around ensuring equitable access to water and maintaining water quality.

SAinfo reporter and SANews