Water and Sanitation Minister, Senzo Mchunu, has reiterated the department’s commitment to work with municipalities to resolve the challenges laid bare in the Blue, Green and No Drop Watch Reports, whose findings were released on Tuesday.

The reports, which were presented by the department’s Director-General, Dr Sean Phillips, indicated that there has been a decline in drinking water quality and an increase in non-revenue water since the last drop reports were issued.

The Green Drop Watch Report indicated that 50% of the municipalities, whose waste water treatment systems were found to be in a critical state in the 2022 Green Drop report, have failed to develop and implement plans to improve them.

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has issued non-compliance notices to 90 municipalities instructing them to correct the shortcomings identified in the Green Drop Report.

The 2022 full Green Drop Report, released in April 2022, found 334 out of 850 municipal wastewater systems in 90 municipalities in critical condition, receiving Green Drop scores of 30% and below.

Reacting to the reports, Mchunu said the department would have to adopt a more robust approach in its interventions, especially where it deems it crucial.

“The department is in the process of strengthening its role as the regulator of water services. This includes developing more comprehensive and more stringent norms and standards for water service and standardising its regulatory processes so that it is more consistent with its regulatory actions.

“The results of the reports indicate that legislative reforms may also be required to ensure that water service providers are professionally managed, capable, efficient and financially viable institutions. The department is in the process of consulting with water sector stakeholders regarding such reforms,” Mchunu said.

To address the challenges highlighted in 2023 Watch Reports, the department is supporting and intervening in many municipalities across the country to improve water and sanitation services.

Mchunu said he has agreed on improvement plans with Mayors, and the department is assisting municipalities with grant funding to address infrastructure deficits.

The department and the Water Boards are also assisting municipalities with technical expertise and management support.

Mchunu said at a meeting called by President Cyril Ramaphosa last Friday, the President raised concerns on whether the department had adequate plans to accelerate service delivery, not just in terms of quantity, but to improve quality.

Mchunu said the department already had some proposals, even before the President called the meeting. These include capacitating the department to give it the legislative muscle it needs when it comes to intervention in municipalities.

“The case of [the City of] Tshwane is the clearest that while you are a custodian, you can’t just walk to Tshwane and intervene but you have to do it legally, and that is constraining. That’s what we want to clear, amongst other things (sic),” Mchunu said.

Hammanskraal, which is located in the north of Tshwane, is currently experiencing a cholera outbreak, with 23 deaths reported to date. Two deaths have been recorded in the Free State and Mpumalanga provinces.

The Minister stressed that Water Boards are mandated to assist municipalities with potable bulk water infrastructure and services, while municipalities, as Water Service Authorities, are mandated to ensure that residents and industries are supplied with water and sanitation services that meet national minimum norms and standards.

“… Local government is responsible to ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner that promotes a safe and healthy environment.

“The Department of Water and Sanitation is responsible for planning, development and management of water resource infrastructure, and for the management of catchments, as well as for setting minimum norms and standards for water and sanitation services,” Mchunu said.

The interim Watch Reports can be accessed on https://ws.dws.gov.za/IRIS/latestresults.aspx. – SAnews.gov.za

Source: South African Government News Agency

News Reporter