Sona 2022: ‘Water is South Africa’s most precious natural resource’ — Ramaphosa

The resurrection of the government’s Blue and Green Drop certification programme will improve the enforcement of water standards at municipal level, President Cyril Ramaphosa said during his 2022 State of the Nation address (Sona) on Thursday.

The programme will enable the department of water and sanitation to “intervene where water and sanitation services are failing”. 

In his 2021 Sona, Ramaphosa pledged to resuscitate the Blue and Green Drop certification programme.

The programme measured the most important indicators for sustainable, safe water and wastewater service delivery and exposed the shameful state of water treatment infrastructure until it was effectively halted in 2013. The last Green Drop and Blue Drop reports were published in 2013 and 2014, respectively. 

More than half of the country’s 1 150 municipal wastewater treatment works and 44% of the 962 water-treatment works are in a poor or critical condition, with 11% dysfunctional, according to the government’s water and sanitation master plan.

Last year, the department admitted that South Africa’s main source of pollution originates from wastewater treatment works because of sewer blockages, poor operations and lack of maintenance. Another big polluter is mining operations causing acid mine drainage in mining provinces.

South Africa’s “most precious natural resource” is water, Ramaphosa said in  Thursday’s speech. “That is why we have prioritised institutional reforms in this area to ensure future water security, investment in water resources and maintenance of existing assets.”

The government, he said, has embarked on a process of institutional reform in capaciting the department of water and sanitation and reviewing water boards to ensure they serve municipalities. 

“These reforms are being championed by the minister of water and sanitation [Senzo Mchunu], who has visited every water source in the country,” he said.

On water-use applications, the government’s target is to clear the backlog of applications by June this year and to process 80% of all applications within the next 90 days.

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Sheree Bega
Sheree Bega is an environment reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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