There is no doubt that water is life and, without the resource, living conditions all over the world would be too ghastly to contemplate.
Again, unnecessary water loss due to leaks and the resultant unaccounted water is a big problem.
Over two thirds of Earth’s surface is covered by water; less than a third is taken up by land. As Earth’s population continues to grow, people are putting ever-increasing pressure on the planet’s water resources. In a sense, our oceans, rivers, and other inland waters are being “squeezed” by human activities — not so they take up less room, but so their quality is reduced. Poorer water quality means water pollution.
We know that pollution is a human problem because it is a relatively recent development in the planet’s history: before the 19th century Industrial Revolution, people lived more in harmony with their immediate environment. As industrialization has spread around the globe, so the problem of pollution has spread with it. When Earth’s population was much smaller, no one believed pollution would ever present a serious problem. It was once popularly believed that the oceans were far too big to pollute. Today, with around 7 billion people on the planet, it has become apparent that there are limits. Pollution is one of the signs that humans have exceeded those limits.
Water pollution can be defined in many ways. Usually, it means one or more substances have built up in water to such an extent that they cause problems for animals or people. Oceans, lakes, rivers, and other inland waters can naturally clean up a certain amount of pollution by dispersing it harmlessly. If you poured a cup of black ink into a river, the ink would quickly disappear into the river’s much larger volume of clean water
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has thus embarked on a skills training project to save water. The project is called the War on leaks Project Training Plan for Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/WDM)
In a post-Apartheid South Africa, municipalities have been under the microscope to see if they will maintain the high quality standard of water that South Africans have grown accustomed to, especially in the urban areas.
However, there have been reports about pollution of rivers, streams and fears that Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTWS) were not functioning at an optimal level. Reasons often cited in newspapers have been lack of parts, insufficient skills and poor management. There were reports that some of the WWTW having grounded to a halt.
However the Department has spent million towards the upgrading and development of new water infrastructure for domestic water use in the hope of abetting the situation of lack of access to the resource.
What the Department has also been doing – but with little success – is calling on the private sector to partner government in working together to upgrade and enhance water infrastructure.
A company called Cobra, a private entity, which helps to train communities how to save water by attending to water leaks. COBRA was established in 1951 and one of the factories is in Krugersdorp. This factory is manufacturing taps and plumbing fittings for the local market. The company has a reputation for bringing to market the most cutting-edge products based on the most forward thinking designs and guarantees production and supply of consistently superior products.
The Department of Water and Sanitation entered into a partnership with COBRA in 2016. The partnership was motivated by the fact that the company is committed to offers an extensive range of water-saving products. As part of the agreed relationship COBRA committed to train water and sanitation forum members on how to fix the leaks and also to take the forum members to a site visit or tour to the Krugersdorp plant.
DWS has established water and sanitation forums in Districts and Metros across all nine provinces. The participation of different stakeholders including community members is important in the water sector in order to extend the stakeholder relations. The department is continuously reviewing, reviving, strengthening and capacitating the established forums to unsure sustainability and functionality. To date there are 114 forums established in different municipalities.
The purpose for establishing forums is to: Ensure government direct interaction with different communities on issues that affect them and come out with agreed resolutions; Reduce increasing number of service delivery protests that are mainly due to lack of communication and feedback; Promote two way flow of information about provision of reliable water and sanitation services to the communities in terms of envisaged developments/plans, challenges and progress; Create an enabling environment for stakeholder participation/engagement and empowerment in water and sanitation governance and; Encourage the active participation of local community members on water and sanitation matters.
It was agreed that this initiative will be done in phases and the first phase will be considered as a pilot. This means the success of the pilot will determine whether project is implemented in other provinces or not. The three provinces that were identified for this pilot programme are Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
It is a fact that as population development continues and that post-1994 the majority of households have access to water and the municipality have a greater responsibility unlike before when a few people benefitted from the previous dispensation. This means that aging, old infrastructure has deteriorated and needs to be fixed. The refurbishment of dysfunctional infrastructure means that sewer spillages will get lesser. The huge demand also means that the Department must be prepared to take a leadership role if municipalities are struggling. Government must double its efforts to be able to provide good services to the citizens of this country.
It should be remember that in January 2016, DWS launched a project to refurbish priority Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW’s) that discharge in the Vaal River. This undertaking followed the decision of the DWS to intervene and arrest polluters who are threatening water resources at the Vaal River.
Whereas this intervention contributes to sustainable water resources management, it demonstrates the leadership role that DWS plays in the water sector.
Also, it is for these reasons that government, through DWS, has to punish those responsible for polluting our water resources. We have programmes such as Adopt-a-River, World Wetlands Day, and War on Pollution ventures and many others which focus on cleaning our rivers.
This bodes well for the protection of our water, and most importantly the awareness creation of this important resource among citizens.
It is also important to emphasise that at the end of the interventions, DWS implemented a process of operations and maintenance of these WWTW’s until municipalities develop the necessary capacity.
This will ensure sustainability of this intervention. But, what are crucial are partnerships like Cobra, to enhance the availability and protection of our water resources with the private sector.
OPINION PIECE by Ike Motsapi