Clean water – a basic human right

According to the Constitution of South Africa every person has the right to clean water. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry’s Community Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (CWSS) was established in 1994 to achieve this.

Since then about 6,5 million people have been given a basic water supply. By mid-2002 27 million people had access to clean water. A policy giving poor families 6 000 litres of free water every month was implemented in late 2000.

According to a survey conducted by the department, 51 percent of the country’s population live in areas where municipalities are now offering a basic amount of free water every month.

During 1999/00 R75-billion was spent on sanitation but an outbreak of cholera in 2000/2001 emphasised the need for the urgent delivery of additional basic sanitation services. A sum of R135-million was made available for the delivery of water and sanitation services over the next three years in areas in KwaZulu-Natal affected by cholera.

In early 2002 the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene campaign (WASH), a global health programme, was initiated to highlight the importance of washing hands after toilet use in reducing disease. In the 2001 financial year the department spent R120-million constructing 50 000 pit latrines and will continue to do so until all people have access to basic sanitation within 10 to 15 years.