According to the United Nations, access to water and sanitation is a basic human right. It is also integral for economic growth. Targets for both feature under Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), advocating for the ensured availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation.
“Lack of access to safe, sufficient and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities has a devastating effect on the health, dignity and prosperity of billions of people, and has significant consequences for the realization of other human rights,” – the UN .
Chapter 4 of South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) indicates that secure and equitable access to water and sanitation are catalysts for socioeconomic development. The absence or deficiency of water infrastructure compromises health and hygiene, which can lead to the spread of disease. More than half the global population lacks access to safely managed sanitation, according to a 2020 report by the United Nations.
Why invest in water and sanitation?
Aside from being vital to life and health, water is also integral to the development of the country. However, the ailing water sector will not be able to achieve its goals without assistance. According to Kopano ya Metsi’s 2019 report Unlocking Water Investment in South Africa, the water sector funding gap is R330 billion over the next ten years, with major infrastructure refurbishment and improved maintenance required. Many water institutions are not creditworthy and accumulated municipal water debt is now over R13 billion, which means that increased private sector investment is needed to help maintain water security in the country.
Although CSI cannot close the water sector funding gap, it can help to support vulnerable municipalities to strengthen their water supply models – critical to water security in a water-scarce country.
Current weaknesses within the water sector are:
- Lack of attention to maintenance and sustainability.
- Relative neglect of sanitation issues.
- Government’s inability to sustain funding levels in the water sector.
- Lack of capacity and skills on all levels.
- Improper or lack of forward planning.
Access to water and sanitation in South Africa
Access to clean, fresh water is a basic human right and it is essential for good health. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes the spread of many infectious diseases and high mortality rates in some areas to contaminated water supplies.
On World Water Day, 22 March 2022 – themed ‘Groundwater, making the invisible visible’ – the United Nations released the 2022 edition of the UN World Water Development Report. The report pointed out that 2.2 billion people live without access to safe water, and if this trend continues then 1.9 billion people will not have basic handwashing facilities by 2030.
According to the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) General Household Survey (GHS) of 2020, 89.1% of South African households have access to improved water sources, with around 14% of households relying on a communal or neighbour’s tap as a main source of drinking water. Around 46.6% of households enjoy piped water in their dwellings, with 28.3% having piped water on site. However, although the national statistics are encouraging, it is worth noting that access to water actually declined in six provinces between 2002 to 2020, most notably in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Free State. Around 98% of households in metros have access to tap water.
Proper sanitation is one of the key factors in preventing the spread of disease. According to the GHS of 2020, 83% of households in South Africa have access to sanitation – up from 61% in 2002. Flushing toilets connected to public sewerage systems were most common in urbanised provinces like the Western Cape (93%) and Gauteng (87%). Only 34% of households in Limpopo had access to any type of flush toilet, with74% of households using pit latrines.
The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs introduced two incentive-based regulatory programmes in 2008 to improve the quality of water and sanitation in the country: the Blue Drop Certification Programme for Drinking Water Quality Management Regulation and the . However, reports have been published sporadically, with the 2014 Blue Drop report released in 2017.