Status of Access to Water and Sanitation

The Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) General Household Survey (GHS) of 2018 indicates that there were 13.8 million households with access to piped water, compared to 9.3 million in 2006. Around 46.3% of households had access to piped water in their dwellings. A further 28.5% accessed water on site, while 12.3% relied on communal taps and 1.9% on their neighbours’ taps. However, 2.7% of households still had to fetch waters from rivers, streams, stagnant water pools, dams, wells and springs in. About two-thirds (62.4%) of households rated the water services they received as ‘good’.

The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs introduced two incentive-based regulatory programmes in 2008: the Blue Drop Certification Programme for Drinking Water Quality Management Regulation and the Green Drop Certification Programme for Wastewater Quality Management Regulation. However, reports have been published sporadically, with the 2014 Blue Drop report released in 2017. The report showed that the total number of water systems achieving Blue Drop status decreased by 55%.

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) reports that, by mid-2019, 60 million people had just 27% of the water in South Africa to use for consumption – 2.5% was directed at mining, 3% to industrial use, 2% towards power generation, and 61% taken up by agriculture. An increasing population compounds the problem, as does continuous drought (South Africa is the 30th driest country in the world). Water scarcity is further challenged by pollution (such as industrial effluents, domestic and commercial sewage, acid mine draining, agricultural runoff and litter). Only 65% of South Africans have a reliable water supply and quality water delivery is declining on an annual basis.

Proper sanitation is one of the key factors in improving environmental sanitation, which prevents the spread of disease. According to the GHS of 2018, 83% of households in South Africa have access to improved sanitation – up from 61.7% in 2002. Flushing toilets connected to public sewerage systems were most common in urbanised provinces like the Western Cape (89.1%) and Gauteng (88.6%). Only 26.5% of households in Limpopo had access to any type of flush toilet. Some 70.2% of households in Limpopo use pit latrines, along with 40.3% of households in the Eastern Cape. Around 1.1% claimed to use bucket toilets. Only 0.3% use ecological toilets. While 76.2% of households said their members wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilet, only 67.5% said that they had easy access to facilities that permitted this.

DWS has rolled out its National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, a roadmap for the integrated planning implementation of water and sanitation projects across the water value chain.

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