South Africans do not only suffer poor supply of water in the recent years but also poor supply of quality tap water and experts say quality SA water is becoming an issue of major concern as this could affect the health status of citizens.
Experts warn that South African water is unfit for consumption and that the popular notion that SA water is one of the best drinking water in the world is actually untrue.
According to the experts, water in south Africa is increasingly polluted by raw sewage spills into dams and rivers that are used for drinking water and prescription medication.
In one of its rankings years back, the SA water was ranked by the UN Environment Programme, 47th out of 122 countries. However, it is believed that there have been improvements in recent years. But still, report from expert says SA water quality has dropped by 8% since 2012 and this is because of its manner of purification.
Forty-percent of sewage plants, for instance, aren’t functioning correctly and need urgent repairs.
The Vaal Dam supplies drinking water for millions of people, but activists complain that a large number of rivers flowing into it are not tested.
It’s also estimated that almost 160 tons of ARVs reach South Africa’s rivers every year. When pollution becomes excessive, authorities simply dilute it with clean, expensive water from Lesotho.
Last year, researchers tested water in major cities across the country. They found traces of 34 drugs and pesticides, including ARVs and anti-depressants.
These changes to the drinking water quality are what scientists call a slow disaster — an occurrence that is hardly noticeable so the problem fails to get noticed, until it’s too late.
Meanwhile, SA’s Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said desalination could make SA water secure for the next 30 years.
“We’re now investing in desalination…. In the Western Cape, we gave them R15m a week ago to put (in) a new package plant to deal with desalination, and we are now discussing with the Eastern Cape to deal with those issues.
That is also going to help us to augment water security for this economic hub called Gauteng up to a period of 30 years, if we don’t waste water,” she said.
Mokonyane also said the government would invest R6bn to upgrade infrastructure on water schemes and community infrastructure for the country.
According to her, the country needed alternative solutions, as the drought it faced resulted in farmers losing their livestock and being unable to plant for the new season.
One of the solutions includes purification of acid mine drainage, which would result in the government having to spend less money on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
The minister however spoke about the ruling party’s achievements in water and sanitation, saying that the old townships in Gauteng no longer used the bucket system and the Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele said:
“In the area of water, we (Ekurhuleni) are leading the country. We are one of the two least-water-using cities in the country. We have invested no less than R3bn in providing quality sanitation.”