Rural areas' water quality questionable
Richard Davies | Parliament
19 May 2005 10:19
Almost two-thirds of South Africa's municipalities cannot say whether the water they supply to consumers meets specified standards, Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry Buyelwa Sonjica told MPs on Wednesday.
"Many of them may be achieving the standard, but their controls could not show it," she said, opening debate on her department's Budget vote in the National Assembly.
"I regret to say that 63% of municipalities could not confirm that they met the drinking-water quality guidelines," Sonjica told the House.
Contacted for comment, Director General of Water Affairs and Forestry Mike Muller said the problem is confined to rural areas.
"In the metropolitan areas and large towns, we are reasonably satisfied with the quality of the water supply. However, some rural areas are not up to standard."
A total of 116 municipalities could not confirm they were meeting the South African Bureau of Standards quality guidelines.
"This means that they cannot guarantee the quality of their water," he said.
However, tests conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in the Free State had recently found "only two or three small towns where the water supply occasionally failed to meet quality standards".
"Ninety-five percent of the areas looked at were okay," Muller said.
Asked if there is any danger to the public, he replied: "There are areas in South Africa, particularly rural areas and small towns, where there are lapses in water treatment. At such times, you could not assure people the water there is safe."
Muller stressed the general problem is not about "something in the water", but has to do with certain municipalities not having the management arrangements in place to be able to ensure their water is treated 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"For example, there could be occasional breakdowns in the supply of chlorine, but the municipality's system-management programmes would not show it."
As a result, they cannot warn their consumers when they should be boiling their drinking water, he said. -- Sapa