All urged to care for our water
Department on mission to help preserve precious resource
AS SOUTH Africa continues to grapple with the drought, the country and its citizens need to realise that water quality is central to economic development, says Andile Tshona, a communication specialist at the Department of Water and Sanitation.
South Africa is ranked among the 30 driest countries in the world. The drought has highlighted the necessity for water resources to be managed efficiently and for water to be used in innovative ways to improve its quality.
“This is especially so when one also considers that the options in terms of largescale infrastructure developments are becoming fewer. As a result, our reliance on water conservation and water-demand management has, and will continue, to increase,” Tshona says.
As the country celebrates the 20th anniversary of the constitution, which was signed in December 1996 and put into effect in February 1997, South Africans are reminded that it is one of the most revered constitutions in the world and considered to have among the most progressive supreme laws around.
“South Africans had every right to celebrate this milestone, considering where we come from as a country. The cornerstone of our constitutional democracy is the Bill of Rights, which enshrines the rights of all people in South Africa and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom,” Tshona says.
He adds that among other basic rights stipulated is the provision of clean water, while an environment that isn’t harmful to human health or well-being, and is protected for the benefit of present and future generations, is of prime importance.
“The significance of clean water, dignified sanitation and a healthy environment cannot be overstated by any measure, and the government is entrusted to discharge this responsibility to its citizenry,” according to Tshona.
“However, the intention to provide quality surface and groundwater faces lots of manmade and natural challenges, which, if left unattended, could cause more harm than the good intentions espoused by the incumbent government.”
Tshona says some of the risks to quality water included source discharges emanating from industrial processes and wastewater treatment works, infiltration of water from contaminated land and diffuse sources.
“These water-quality challenges have the potential to affect the fitness for use of water in our rivers, dams and aquifers.”
Tshona says it’s also important to be aware of the impact caused by climate change patterns and global warming, which have led to a deterioration in water quality.
“This is something that impacts significantly on the country’s socio-economic growth. Quality water plays a huge role in the development of all sectors, and to this end, everything needs to be done to ensure that water resources don’t hinder the country’s development,” he says.
According to Rand Water, the streams and rivers in the south and north of Gauteng are severely affected by mining, and industrial and urban activities.
“The Jukskei River drains the northern part of the densely populated and industrialised Gauteng before flowing into the Crocodile River. The Crocodile River drains Hartbeespoort Dam, which is a popular recreational area and serves as a raw-water source for North West,” Tshona points out.
In a bid to prevent any major harm to South Africa’s water resources, the department is reviewing its water-quality
SA is among the 30 driest countries
management policy and looking into developing an integrated water-quality management strategy to meet the challenges facing the country.
Tshona wishes to remind South Africans that the government can’t take sole responsibility for the state of the country’s water and that everyone has to be a part of the process that comes up with solutions.
In an attempt to get all sectors involved, the department has held workshops across the country, meeting with relevant stakeholders, civil society organisations, the private sector and members of the public in order to come up with ways to address water-quality challenges.
“This is also to advocate a behavioural change in the way people treat water and bring about a measurable improvement in the quality of raw water,” Tshona adds.
Some of the issues the workshops have addressed include the role of stakeholders, the business community and civil society in water-quality management; and making the water sector aware that it needs to be monitored across the board, making it clear that polluters have to comply and that the department needs to improve monitoring and enforcement.
“For us to move a step closer in winning this battle, we ought to be bold enough to consult those with more insight and experience, even if it means seeking advice from the international community, so that we don’t sit with challenges that can be solved speedily,” Tshona says.
In order for South Africa to improve its water quality, the country needs to take another look at its priorities and rehabilitate critical catchments, build capacity in terms of skills development in the water sector, and maintain its systems, he notes.
The department has reaffirmed its commitment to ensure the provision of clean and safe water as well as the provision of dignified sanitation services to communities.
“The importance of participation and co-operation from everyone remains critical in all our efforts, as the government, to fulfil our constitutional mandate.
“We further call on every South African to be responsible in how they use water, save every little drop and join us in our efforts to ensure that our dams and rivers are not polluted,” Tshona says.
LIFE FORCE: Water flows from the Vaal Dam into the Vaal River. The drought has highlighted the necessity for water resources to be managed efficiently and for water to be used in innovative ways to improve its quality.