Government scrambles to stop South Africa’s next big crisis

 ·28 Sep 2022

South Africa is a few years away from having to implement “water-shedding” – where water will only be available sporadically – says Lunga Patso, a process engineer from the Water Institute of South Africa (WISA).

The country has been struggling with a water crisis, where many provinces and metros have been embroiled in water shortages over the years, including the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

Speaking to ENCA, Patso said that the country has already run out of time.

Nelson Mandela Bay, for example, is already in crisis, with roughly 2 million residents running the risk of having taps dry up due to an ongoing drought, ageing infrastructure and mismanagement on the part of the government.

“We have to move with speed,” said Patso.

The Department of Water and Sanitation’s latest Green Drop report – which looks into the access, security and management of the water sector across municipalities in the country – found that 39% of municipal wastewater systems were identified to be in a critical state.

In August, Unisa professor of geography Anja du Plessis, who specialises in water resource administration, said that infrastructure is over 30 years old and has not been sufficiently maintained, further reducing access to water.

Du Plessis said that the situation is similar to how Eskom was managed, which ultimately led to load shedding. South Africa is a water-scarce country, and having working and well-maintained infrastructure is essential to ensure that the small amount of rain that does fall is preserved, she said.

Under the government’s plan to reform critical sectors – known as Operation Vulindlela – finance minister Enoch Godongwana said that significant progress has been achieved in the water sector.

The government has instituted various pieces of key draft legislation to try and address water security and quality in South Africa.

Draft legislation for the National Water Resource Infrastructure Agency has been finalised and will be published for public consultation shortly, the minister said. “This will enable much greater investment in our bulk water resources.”

Alongside this, partnerships have been made between the Department of Water and Sanitation and big business to enable private sector participation in water infrastructure and management.

One of the key issues facing the water sector is also a lack of necessary skills to properly managed water. Management falls under local municipalities that are often not sufficiently equipped to handle the situation.

As a result, the Department of Water and Sanitation has taken it upon itself to acquire necessary skills in the domestic water sector by offering bursaries for 2023 that cover full tertiary registration and tuition costs, residence and meal costs, book allowances and a personal allowance.

The department is offering bursaries for the following degrees:

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Aquatic Sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Project Management
  • Environmental Management
  • Environmental Science
  • Geo-chemistry
  • Geographical information Systems
  • Water Care
  • Water Resource Management
  • Water Utilization
  • Geo-hydrology
  • Geology
  • Hydrology Microbiology
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering (Heavy Current)
  • Mechanical Engineering

According to the department, applications opened on 1 June 2022 and has been extend until 31 October 2022.

The application form is available on the DWS website. or alternatively here.

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