All urged to care for our wa­ter

De­part­ment on mis­sion to help pre­serve pre­cious re­source

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ILANIT CHERNICK ilanit.chernick@inl.co.za

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.

@Lanc_02

PIC­TURE: KAREN SANDISON

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.

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