We are not facing a water crisis, says minister

Lindiwe Hendricks, the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, on Thursday denied that South Africa is facing a water crisis.

“I can categorically say that we are not facing a water crisis, or a water-contamination crisis,” she told a media briefing in Parliament. “The water that comes out of our taps is among the best in the world.”

She was adamant that there is no crisis in water supply similar to the crisis that has overtaken the supply of electricity. And although she did admit that there have been some cases of contamination of supplies, she insisted that her department is dealing with them. She said that water monitoring is being carried out continuously.

There have been some cases of contamination of streams by acid drainage from mines. But there has been consultation with the mining houses and they have begun upgrading the drainage infrastructure. A Section 21 company has been established to deal with acid drainage in the future.

“That particular problem has been dealt with,” the minister said.

She also admitted that there has been a problem with ageing infrastructure, because no provision was made in the past for upgrading infrastructure. “Repair and refurbishment haven’t kept up,” she said.

As a result, some dams and rivers have been polluted where informal settlements have grown up on their banks. This too is being dealt with, she said, “but infrastructure construction takes time”.

The media briefing was told that just over one million households will remain without a basic water supply by the end of this year. In two years’ time the figure will have fallen to 870 000 households.

Speaking as chair of the social cluster of ministers, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said that it will be possible to supply all people living in existing houses with a basic water supply by 2012. — I-Net Bridge

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