South Africa's Minister of Water Affairs says all South Africans must enjoy this basic human right. This year, South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy, an important milestone in our country’s history. The next 12 months also sees the end of the United Nations designated International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’, an equally important milestone that recognizes the world is dealing with significant water infrastructure and scarcity challenges.
Here at home in South Africa, we recognise that this is the decade of equity and redistribution, a time to practically realise everyone’s right to water, a right guaranteed in our Constitution.
However, like the rest of the world, our precious water resources are under considerable pressure and if we are to meet the demands of the economy, of our people, and ensure sufficient water to sustain the environment, we need to make the right strategic decisions today and plan comprehensively and carefully to ensure we can develop, manage, protect and control the use of our water resources effectively for the future.
The challenge is to achieve the essential equity and redistribution of our water resources, whilst at the same time ensuring water security for the future and also enough water for our national economic growth and development priorities.
A substantial response
Despite these substantial water challenges being faced by our country today and over the past two decades, the response on the part of Government has been equally substantial and this is evident in the significant amount of work that has been done to find effective, long-lasting solutions.
To this end, the formulation and implementation of the ambitious National Water Resource Strategy 2 is providing the necessary strategic roadmap to not only address the current challenging water situation, but to provide an advanced and smart water management approach to take the country forward into a more positive, water secure future.
The new strategy, which is currently being implemented, addresses and prioritises sustainable water resource management. It includes asset management and effective operations, effective use and demand management, local resource optimization including ground water utilization, water systems management and control, re-use, desalination and utilization of sea water, new technology.
Of particular importance, it also addresses the protection of our precious water resources. As a result of this strategic approach, today 9 out of 10 South African citizens have access to clean and safe water supplies, an incredible achievement.
However, government will not rest until all citizens can enjoy this basic human right and to achieve this goal, such a significant challenge cannot be faced alone. Water conservation begins with each and every one of us, as responsible citizens, changing our attitude and behaviours towards water and recognizing that we each have a role to play if we are to preserve our water legacy for future generations.
All stakeholders committed to the progressive future development of our country need to come together and be united in a collective effort to conserve and protect our precious water resources.
By ensuring the efficient use of water, each and every day, we can improve the quality of life for all South Africans, whilst at the same time promoting and stimulating local economic development to benefit our communities. Citizens can make a real difference by taking action and reporting water leaks on properties or in the local area, requesting their local municipalities to assist.
Water belongs to all
Reporting the unlawful usage of water, dumping of agricultural, industrial and sewerage waste into our rivers to the Blue Scorpions (the country’s water monitoring and enforcement unit) will also help.
It is also important to remember that our water infrastructure belongs to each and every one of us, and we should take measures to ensure that such infrastructure is not vandalized or uncared for, as it is essential for the delivery of our water resources and services at the heart of our communities.
Going forward, there are undoubtedly some challenges that remain. Being a water scarce country, coupled with ongoing infrastructure and maintenance challenges (such as ageing and mal-functional infrastructure compounded by vandalism which poses a serious problem), means that in some areas the provision of water is still impacted.
In addition, the shortage of specialist engineering skills is also impacting on the ability to undertake proper and sustained maintenance of our water infrastructure. Our water quality is also being negatively affected by pollution, and seasonal droughts impact on the amount of water available for supply.
However, through the government’s Strategic Integrated Projects (SIP) 18, South Africa has an exciting 10-year plan to address the estimated backlog of adequate water supply to 1.4 million households and 2.1 million households to basic sanitation.
Our water projects will provide new infrastructure, rehabilitation and upgrading of existing ones, as well as improvement in our overall water management infrastructure.
The future looks bright if we all work together to build a brighter water horizon for all South Africa’s citizens.
DID YOU KNOW?
Water Facts in Numbers
As South Africa looks back at the past two decades of water service delivery, much has been achieved, particularly when reflecting on the scale of the challenge.
We take this opportunity to look at the progress that has been achieved through some interesting water facts in the country, presented through the power of numbers. Here are some key numbers and facts you might not already know.
- Through the government’s ambitious Strategic Integrated Projects (SIP) programme, a plan has been formulated to address the estimated backlog of adequate water supply to 1.4 million households in South Africa.
- As part of the government SIP programme, 2.1 million South African households will get access to basic sanitation.
- Today, in 2014, 9 out of 10 South African citizens have access to clean and safe water supplies each day
- South Africa’s government has developed an innovative 10-year pan to address the water access backlog
- The government’s National Infrastructure Plan’s Strategic Integrated Project 18, focuses on water and sanitation infrastructure and the delivery of both water and sanitation services to all South African citizens.
- For the past 20 years, government has been hard at work ensuring that all South Africans can get access to clean and safe water supplies.
- The 22nd of March is designated as World Water Day, a time when South Africa raises awareness about the role of water in social and economic development including the need to encourage citizens to change their attitudes towards water use.
- South Africa is ranked the 30th driest country in the world with annual rainfall levels about half the world average
- Back in 1994, only 59% of our people had access to clean and safe drinking water.
- South Africa shares water resources with the neighbouring countries of Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. These shared water courses cover 60% of the land mass of South Africa and provide 40% of our total water requirements.
- In 2013, South Africa had achieved a national average of 95.2% of citizens who had access to water.
- In January 2014, government announced a capital injection in excess of R500 million to deal with issues of water infrastructure refurbishment, operation and maintenance to ensure that interruptions in the water supply do not recur.
Minister Edna Molewa
(The Department of Water Affairs)