The right of access to basic water supply and basic sanitation services is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, and the government is responsible for the provision of water and sanitation. adequate sanitation.
Chapter 4 of the National Development Plan envisions a South Africa that recognizes the importance of safe and equitable access to water and sanitation as a catalyst for socio-economic development.
It is against this background that the Cabinet recently approved the third edition of the National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS) for public consultation. The strategy gives effect to the National Water Act of 1998 (Act 36 of 1998), which directs the adoption of the NWRS to guide the management of water resources.
The strategy document, which will be published in the Official newspaper, builds on the successes of the two previous editions of the strategy. It proposes large-scale interventions on water management and aligns with the national climate change adaptation strategy to deal with, for example, water polluters. Some of the proposals include penalties for those who pollute water and the environment.
When the new democratically elected government came to power in 1994, it identified water supply for its citizens as one of its top priorities. Besides the limited water supplies at the time, the government was aware of the historical injustices of the past. The provision of water services in apartheid-era South Africa was based on racial criteria.
The Statistical Review of the Water Sector released in 2010 indicated that domestic and commercial water supply averaged around 46.3% in 1994, which was obviously racially driven.
According to Statistics South Africa’s 2020 General Household Survey (GHS), households that have access to off-site or on-site water in the country are at 89.1%. This demonstrates a huge and commendable investment by democratic government in addressing inequities in household water supply. Obviously, the ideal for citizens is 100% access to drinking water. The GHS further highlights that an increasing number of households now have access to adequate sanitation facilities.
However, he also reports that some provinces such as Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga have regressed somewhat in water supply and sanitation. A number of communities have also expressed frustration with sewer spills and some with water flow disruptions.
Since water remains a finite resource and an essential part of the country’s economic recovery, it is imperative that all people in the country consciously conserve it. Proper maintenance of water infrastructure should remain an essential part of government service delivery programs. Sensitizing communities on their role in preventing water leaks in their respective areas remains essential. Environmental pollution leads to unnecessary waste and poses a health hazard to communities.
Communities are encouraged to contribute to the NWRS so that the government can intervene in a meaningful and targeted way. With this strategy, the government remains committed to working with communities to address water challenges. Upgrading and maintaining water supply infrastructure remains a challenge in some municipalities.
The sustainable supply of water to all South Africans still requires the construction of new dams and the construction of water pipes and boreholes in areas still without water, in accordance with the guidelines of the NWRS.
The country’s ability to adapt to new technologies and innovation in the field of water and sanitation management also offers opportunities for economic growth and job creation.
The use of modern technology in water management will bring the country in line with international trends, as it recognizes the exponential growth in population and infrastructure development. Hopefully, the 2022 census will provide the government with the actual size of the population to ensure the proper allocation of resources to, among other things, uphold the constitutional right to access water and sanitation services by all South- Africans.
However, communities need to realize that by not fixing a leaky tap or damaged pipe, they are not helping to ensure that we all have enough water for our daily needs. Other ways to conserve water, such as harvesting rainwater and using water sparingly, will go a long way in making South Africa a country that can comfortably provide its citizens this much-needed resource.
Meanwhile, World Water Day will be on March 22, and as part of our national duty, let us all cooperate with the government in water conservation, for our survival and socio-economic development.
Phumla Williams is the Director General of Government Communications and Information System as well as the Cabinet Spokesperson.