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No water crisis in SA, says Minister

by Shaun Benton
on 13 Mar 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

There is no water crisis in South Africa and claims to the contrary are not backed up by facts, the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry has said in Parliament.

Minister Lindiwe Hendricks told Members of Parliament on Tuesday that South African currently had enough water storage in dams and reservoirs to supply the country with water.

"The 2007/08 summer rainfall season started off in October 2007 with well above-normal water storages due to the good rainfalls over the largest part of the country.

"The above-normal rainfall resulted in good runoff which is reflected in the good storage situation in our dams and rivers, across most parts of the country," Ms Hendricks said.

As a result, water storages in all the provinces are well above the average storage level and most of the provincial storage levels equals or exceeds last year's levels, she said.

The minister conceded that while South Africa was a water-scarce country with a highly-skewed rainfall distribution pattern and subject to droughts, the department made provision for this by ensuring there were a number of dams, strict water allocation processes and an extensive network of infrastructure to transfer water from different parts of the country.

Further, dams are also being built, with nine water resources capital projects completed at a cost of R1.3 billion between 2004 and 2006.

These include the completion of Nandoni Dam in Limpopo in 2006 and the Mooi-Mgemi Transfer Scheme.

The first phase of the scheme was completed in KwaZulu-Natal in 2004.

Another six major water resource infrastructure projects, costing R8.8 billion, are expected to be completed between 2008 and 2012.

These projects underway include the De Hoop Dam in Limpopo, the Berg Water Dam in the Western Cape, as well as the Vaal River East-Subsystem Augmentation Scheme (VRESAP pipeline).

The VRESAP has been designed to supply sufficient water to Eskom power stations and Sasol, Ms Hendricks said.

In addition to this, nine major water resource capital projects are at the planning stage and these are expected to be built over the next five to 10 years at an estimated cost of R12 billion.

Ms Hendricks said the department had also, through its planning processes, determined that a new dam would be required to service South Africa's most populous province, Gauteng, by 2019.

"The feasibility studies to determine the location of this new dam have already been completed and a decision on the location will be made in the coming months," she told MPs.

At the same time, maintenance work is continuing on the country's existing dams, she said, denying claims that parts of the country's water infrastructure is "crumbling"

"A plan is in place to do the necessary rehabilitation and refurbishments and in 2006 we set aside R1.3 billion over a five-year period to ensure that our dams are maintained and they are in line with international standards."

These maintenance programmes have already commenced, with repair work on 42 of the country's dams under way.

Another concern that was raised in Parliament was the quality of South Africa's drinking water.

South Africa generally has the favourable reputation of having good quality drinking water from taps.

While the management of drinking water quality is the responsibility of the country's municipalities, the department has an oversight and regulatory role over the quality of tap water.

"Over the past few years, my department has implemented a country-wide system to assist with the overall management of drinking water quality," said Ms Hendricks.

However, she said an average of 3 000 samples have been taken nationwide from water supply systems for testing.

"We are pleased to report that more than 94 percent of the analyses complied with the health aspects of the national standard for drinking water quality."

The department is working with the municipalities to ensure that the six percent of the analyses that did not comply, meet the required standards of delivering safe and clean drinking water to our people.

"Armed with information from our monitoring system we are able to be proactive in addressing any non-compliance," the minister insisted.

The minister said that while government had these various projects in place, South Africans were reminded that this is a water-scarce country.

From time to time, she said, it would become necessary to impose water restrictions during periods of drought. - BuaNews

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System

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