Failing old municipal treatment plants

The government’s drive to ensure all South Africans have access to a reliable water supply by 2014 could be undermined by failing old municipal treatment plants, the DA warned on Tuesday.

The problem lay with “weak” municipalities, which often did not fully use available funds, Democratic Alliance water affairs spokesperson Marti Wenger said.

Commending Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa for her focus on ageing water infrastructure, Wenger noted that her department was not responsible for maintaining it in municipalities where the problem was most acute.

“This is the responsibility of the relevant water service authority, which is usually the local municipality or district municipality.

Integrity of water supply

“Weak municipalities, which often do not fully use available funds, need special attention from both the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs and the department of water in order to ensure the integrity of water supply,” she said.

The number of South Africans without access to an “acceptable level” of water infrastructure had dropped to 2.84 million.

Wenger welcomed Molewa’s announcement earlier this month that she planned to enlist private companies to build, maintain and operate infrastructure, particularly waste water treatment works.

“The DA welcomes government’s commitment to seek new solutions. We trust the minister will announce more details of her plans when she delivers her budget speech in Parliament in May.”

On achieving 100% access to reliable water by 2014, Wenger said this would probably not be achievable in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and the Eastern Cape, where the backlogs were 1.3 million, 540 000, and 420 000 people respectively.

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