Water quality a major issue – Molewa

The national government is working with municipalities to ensure that the quality of water in the country remains acceptable.

To kick off World Water Week, celebrated in Cape Town for the first time, the government has revealed the challenges of managing waste water.

“We are working with municipalities in trying to eradicate water-borne disease and we have introduced the green drop certificate to hold municipalities to particular standards,” water affairs minister Edna Molewa told News24 at the Macassar waste water treatment plant outside Cape Town.

The management of waste water is particularly challenging because there is a chronic shortage of qualified staff.

“Those specific skills are highly mobile and there are some challenges in the department. We have also embarked on training to produce those skills within the department,” Molewa said.

Ageing infrastructure

According to the City of Cape Town, the staff shortages are compounded by ageing infrastructure in the water network.

“We have huge backlogs in terms of upgrading our capacity and the quality of output,” said Philemon Mashoko, water and sanitation manger for the City of Cape Town.

He added that there was a waste water plan which is estimated to cost R1.5bn over ten years and would include the replacement of the sewer network.

“It’s very difficult to fill positions and I can’t give you an exact figure of the staff we need, but we are trying to create our own expertise,” said Mashoko.

Molewa said that some municipalities needed to up their game in terms of how they dealt with water management, but that the department would “hold their hand” to ensure that water standards were kept.

“We are tightening legislation to get our municipalities to get to or even surpass world standards and we have seen enormous improvements, but some municipalities remain behind. They have not quite adhered to our standards.”

She said that a detailed report of which municipalities were following the department guidelines was available from the website in a full report due out in June 2011.

Molewa also said that her department was working with industry in the area of re-using water, but this programme was still in its early stages.

“We are working with industry in using grey water in mining and agriculture and we would like to see clean water being used only for consumption.”

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