Municipalities owe R1.58 billion for water they get from water boards and the department of water affairs, Water and Environment Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said in a parliamentary answer to a DA question.
The water boards and the department were owed at least R1.56 billion at the end of June.
Three municipalities — Bushbuckridge (Witbank) in Mpumulanga, the Matjhabeng local municipality (Welkom) in the Free State and Mopani district municipality (Giyani) in Limpopo — were behind in their payments to their respective water boards to the tune of R470 million, Democratic Alliance spokesman Gareth Morgan said.
Bushbuckridge was behind by R160.1 million, Matjhabeng R155.7 million and Mopani R155.1 million at the end of June.
The department of water affairs itself was owed R981.6 million by local municipalities and R166.5 million by district municipalities.
The municipalities were in arrears for R621.5 million and district municipalities were behind by an amount of R110.8 million.
The Oliver Tambo District Municipality (Mthatha) was the worst of the district municipalities, behind by R61 million in its payments to the department.
The Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality (Harrismith and Qwa Qwa) owed R58.9 million to the department, while the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro was behind by R31.9 million.
It was not known how old the debt to the department was, but R615.8 million owed to the water boards was for water supplied more than four months before the end of June.
Whilst we can blame local municipalities, it is still up to each and everyone of us to start saving water. Our scarcest resource is wasted on a daily basis and it is up to us to effect change. Be it simple steps such as fixing leaking taps or reusing grey water, we can make a difference. Rainwater harvesting is a sustainable solution as we will not be at the mercy of inept municipalities. Water conservation starts with you.