News and Opinions

Access to Water and Sanitation in South Africa: A renewed call for more action

"While the main discourse in accessing basic services such as water and sanitation focuses on universal access, in reality such access – as highlighted so starkly as the country attempts to halt the spread of the coronavirus – is not equitable.

Access to such services is not equitable and has been evident by ongoing community protests and a recent Supreme Court of Appeal judgment which compensated a family for the loss of their child when his school pit latrine toilet collapsed and he fell in and died. 

However, in the face of Covid-19, the unequal access to safe water, sanitation and adequate hygiene could be a key factor in preventing the so-called flattening of the curve. To this end the government has indicated its intention to supply up to 2,000 communities with water. "

Read more in Daily Maverick

Water services worse than in 1994

"More than 5.3-million households and 21-million people don’t have clean water, despite money being spent on dams and pipelines to deliver water to 95% of the population. Sipho Kings looks at how R1.3-trillion worth of infrastructure has been subject to so much corruption and mismanagement that many places are worse off than in 1994, leaving the state with a R898-billion bill this decade"

Read more in Mail and Guardian

After Eskom, next crisis will be water

"South Africa will have a 17% water deficit by 2030 and unless urgent steps are taken to implement a range of integrated solutions, the country’s next looming crisis will be severe water scarcity. This emerged at a hard-hitting review of both Nelson Mandela Bay and the country’s water supply and usage status at the Nelson Mandela University Business School on Wednesday, where experts warned of a water crisis that would mirror SA’s energy woes."

Read more in SundayTimes



SA's Water: How to Stop a Runaway Problem

"The ongoing drought is only partly to blame for the water crisis declared in the Eastern Cape at the end of October. According to the government’s own records, there are over 6000 water leaks that haven’t been attended to. This chronic lack of maintenance and infrastructure development, coupled with global warming effects like drought, is not an Eastern Cape problem alone. The whole of South Africa is on the brink of a full-blown water crisis. Listen to Environmental scientist Alex McNamara of NBI to understand what urgently needs to be done to secure the precious resource. "


Water and Sanitation in eThekwini, South Africa

A lecture by Duncan Mara on a case study of the water and sanitation programme developed by the eThekwini Water Services, Durban, South Africa
Published by Andrew Sleigh on May 8, 2012


Tens of millions spent on repairs but sewage still flows in the Vaal

"The smell is nauseating. The grass has been turned into a faecal marshland yet the cattle drink and trot towards the Vaal River. The Lekwa municipality’s main water treatment plant in Standerton is not functioning, despite millions of rands being pumped into it by the local government and the department of water and sanitation over the past decade.

According to Anthony Turton, who works for the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State, the pollution downstream of the Vaal River, which includes the Standerton area, means that water must be pumped into the river to dilute the high salt levels."

Read more in Mail and Guardian

Access to water and sanitation in South Africa

"Access to clean water and proper sanitation is a fundamental right which, in many instances in South Africa, still needs to be realised. This slideshow provides a brief overview of water and sanitation challenges in South Africa, as well as an introduction to the work of Oxfam’s AACES partners."
Published by Oxfam in South Africa on Jul 7, 2015




South Africa's real water crisis: not understanding what's needed

"A serious multi-year drought in parts of South Africa's Northern and Eastern Cape provinces has seen a number of small towns threatened by total water supply failures and livestock farmers facing financial ruin. In other parts of the country, heatwave conditions and the late onset of rains have caused local supply failures. Although the dams that supply most of the main urban areas are still at reasonable levels, there are growing fears that the country may be witnessing the start of a major drought.

Cape Town’s experience of extreme “Day Zero” supply restrictions only adds to these fears. Weather forecasters seem unable to make reliable predictions more than a few weeks in advance. And there are nagging concerns about the government’s ability to identify and address emerging problems.

Unhelpfully, there’s no single water problem and the issues confronted vary widely from place to place."

Read more on BizCommunity


S.A has launched a National Water and Sanitation Master Plan

"South Africa has launched a new National Water and Sanitation Master Plan to ensure future water supply. The plan in part, is a response to the impacts of global warming and climate change. Some parts of South Africa recently emerged from one of the worst droughts in history. The popular tourist city of Cape Town almost ran completely dry after it missed two normal rain seasons. Experts are now warning that South Africa will run out of clean drinking water in 10 years."
Published by CGTN Africa on Feb 27, 2019



SERI: The Struggle to be Ordinary

"Women living with disabilities in #SouthAfrica’s informal settlements are among the most vulnerable and marginalized.   @SERI_RightsSA is working to ensure that everyone has access to proper sanitation. "

Learn more: 🎬  @FordFoundation

A perfect storm is gathering: South Africa’s perpetual water crisis

"The Cape Town water crisis was averted, temporarily, but taps in other parts of South Africa have run dry.To grapple with the country’s ongoing water problems, we need to understand structural failure in the system. The infrastructure of our cities is based on the outdated notion that there is plenty of water for all uses, including flushing our sewage to the waste treatment works. While some retooling has been done, the fundamental structural problem remains: the design of water systems assume there is enough sustainable water for them to continue functioning."

Read more on Daily Maverick

African Futures Project: Water & Sanitation

How can Water & Sanitation change Africa? Here's How!



Presented by the Institute for Security Studies and the Pardee Center for International Futures. Produced by Echo Ledge Productions.

Published by Echoledge on Mar 23, 2012


Invasive alien vegetation a major threat to Cape dam levels - scientist

"Alien vegetation poses a significant threat to Cape Town's water supply, says biodiversity scientist Jasper Slingsby.  Slingsby co-authored an opinion piece that appeared on the Daily Maverick. He says that removing alien trees near water catchment areas should form part of the City of Cape Town's water augmentation schemes.  Slingsby claims that invasive alien trees currently reduce water supply to dams by more than 100 megalitres per day. He says alien vegetation also impacts on groundwater replenishment. According to Slingsby, an aggressive alien removal plan is needed around key catchment areas which are the most invaded and which have higher rainfall"

Listen to the interview on Cape Talk


Dire state of hygiene and sanitation in Southern Africa

"Sadly, not everyone around the world has access to safe water and sanitaion. The Africa sanitation and fifth International faecal sludge management conference is taking place in Cape Town this week. This is to discuss the dire state of hygiene and sanitation in Southern Africa. Joining us now is Chilufya Chileshe from Water Aid South Africa. Courtesy #DStv403"

Published by eNCA on Feb 19, 2019



Forget desalination, first clear alien trees to save CT's water supply - expert

"The City of Cape Town needs to make budget provisions to clear the invasive alien trees which are guzzling Cape Town's water supply. This is according to biodiversity scientist Jasper Slingsby. Slingsby has argued that removing alien trees near water catchment areas should take precedent over other water augmentation schemes. He explains alien clearing is the most cost effective and poses the least risk to the environment."

Listen to the interview on Cape Talk

South Africa's 20-year journey in water and sanitation research

"The Water Research Commission of South Africa compiled a book entitled 'Celebrating Twenty Years of Excellence in Water and Sanitation Research' which intertwines the country’s journey since democracy with the journey and developments in water R&D since then."

Published by Water Research Commission on Jan 15, 2015



'Clearing thirsty alien vegetation a cheaper way to help fill up Cape dams'

"Alien vegetation still poses a significant threat to Cape Town's water supply. Clearing the water-guzzling invasive alien trees is the most cost-effective solution to help with the City of Cape Town’s water resilience plan. This is according to Louise Stafford, the Nature Conservancy's water fund project director for South Africa.  While city officials consider spending R8-billion on engineered solutions to boost Cape Town's water supply, Stafford says alien plant clearing will guarantee the most water return for the least cost. According to Stafford, a total of 50 billion litres (two months' water supply for Cape Town) could be harnessed if 54 000 hectares of identified alien vegetation is cleared around the Cape's dams."

Listen to the interview on Cape Talk

Maladministration in Water and Sanitation Department

"Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts(SCOPA) will institute a formal inquiry into the Water and Sanitation Department. This was decided yesterday after officials from the department failed to give satisfactory responses to questions by members of parliament. The oversight committee on the portfolio says the department is on the brink of collapse due to alleged financial irregularities. SCOPA has also called for the former minister in the portfolio Nomvula Mokonyane to be criminally charged. Its chairperson Themba Godi joins us now from our Parliament studios in Cape Town."

Published by SABC News on February 27, 2018


Alien trees are a major threat to water supply – so why doesn’t this reflect in Cape Town’s draft budget?

"Invasive alien trees are reducing water supply to our dams by almost as much as the ±150 megalitres-per-day bulk water augmentation target, and have similar impacts on groundwater recharge. Yet the City of Cape Town’s draft budget and integrated development plan – which are open for comment until 4 May 2018 – makes no provision for alien clearing. The City aims to create dependence on groundwater without addressing threats to the resource – ultimately setting us up for a much bigger disaster when the next drought occurs. "

Read more on Daily Maverick

R341m set aside for Vaal River rehabilitation

"The project will see 250 youth and community members being trained on plumbing, carpentry, brick-laying, paving and agriculture, water and sanitation minister Gugile Nkwinti announced on Friday, 5 April. “[The] SANDF will also train 2,000 youth and community members to guard 44 pump stations until the completion of the project, which is projected for March 2020,” the minister told the community of Sebokeng."

Read more in the article on Bizcommunity


Limpopo’s sorry state: Millions spent on consultants, residents still face dire water shortages

"Residents of Vhembe District Municipality in Limpopo, which was cited as one of the worst-run municipalities by Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu this week, still face dire water shortages and dismal service delivery. According to his consolidated general report on the local government audit outcomes, which was released this week, municipalities with adverse or disclaimed opinions – a reflection of the auditor’s inability to give an unqualified opinion – spent R56 million on consultants."

Read more on News24

How dirty is the Cape Flats groundwater?

"According to the City of Cape Town’s Water Outlook Report of 31 December, drilling and testing during 2018 revealed that “in general”, the water from the Cape Flats Aquifer “is not suitable for immediate human consumption and must be treated to potable standards before it enters the reticulation system”. This results in higher costs per unit of groundwater."

Read the full article on GroundUp


Researchers call for flow of water research, education towards developing world

"According to newly released research from the United Nations University, post-secondary education and research aimed at tackling the global water crisis is concentrated in wealthy countries rather than the poorer, developing places where it is most needed. Two new papers from the UNU's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health call for reducing this "alarming" imbalance between resources and need, which impedes the search for solutions to crucial water challenges."

Read more in the article on Bizcommunity

#CycloneIdai: Cholera prevention and other relief efforts underway

"Around 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine have been unloaded in Mozambique to help stave off a possible epidemic, in the wake of the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai. The immunisation programme will start immediately in unison with an awareness campaign on local radio stations. So far, two cholera deaths and 1,428 cases of the water-borne disease have been confirmed, Aljezeera reports."

Read more in the article on Bizcommunity


What Cape Town's drought can teach other cities about climate adaptation

"Extreme weather events, such as Cyclone Idai that has recently devastated Beira, Mozambique, and Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston, USA, in 2017 are the types of climate extremes that cities increasingly have to prepare for. Cities, particularly those with extensive informal settlements in the developing world, are being hit hard by these new climatic realities. Although rapid onset disasters often have devastating effects, slow onset climate events, such as drought, can also be detrimental."

Read more in the article on


Protection of strategic water source areas should be legislated, says UCT researcher

"Left unprotected, South Africa's strategic water source areas are highly vulnerable to inappropriate development, according to Amanda Mkhonza, an environmental law lecturer at the University of Cape Town's (UCT) Institute of Marine & Environmental Law. While the National Water Act recognises the protection of water resources, such as rivers, it makes no mention of these vital areas in particular. 

Read more in the article on Bizcommunity


New initiative documents lessons from Cape Town water crisis

"A collective of academics and practitioners has launched a new initiative that will document and capture key learnings from the 2017-2018 Cape Town water crisis that came close to being a catastrophe for the city. In November 2017, with dam levels at just 38.4%, the City of Cape Town officially adopted the concept of Day Zero – the day when the taps would run dry and citizens would be rationed to collecting 25 litres of water per person per day. In January 2018, Day Zero was pegged at 22 April that year."

Read more in the article on Bizcommunity



SA’s water debt grows by R8-million every 24 hours

"Delmas, on the border between Mpumalanga and Gauteng, is blessed with good rainfall, healthy soil and an abundance of coal underneath its green fields. With big coal mines, Eskom power plants, farms and agribusiness, things should be economically — if not environmentally — good. The town falls under the Victor Khanye District Municipality, which has received qualified audits for all of this decade. On Thursday, it missed a deadline to pay back the R87-million it owes Rand Water. 

To try to force repayment, the country’s biggest water utility has throttled water supply to the area by 60%. This means reservoirs, which need water pressure to pump water into them, are empty and entire areas of Delmas and its neighbouring towns don’t have regular water."

Read more in Mail and Guardian


Why crisis proofing for water preservation in SA should be a priority

"This year's theme for World Water Day, held annually on 22 March, is 'Leaving no one behind', aptly revisiting access to water as a critical human right and placing emphasis on previously marginalised groups gaining access to safe water and water services. In South Africa, while at least 21 million people have benefited from a basic supply of water since 1994, there are still vast areas outside of major cities or towns that are underdeveloped and have limited access to safe water and formal water services. In fact, the All Town Studies of 905 towns – which excluded metros and large cities - found that 28% have inadequate water resources."

Read more in the article on Bizcommunity


R60 million desalination plant at V&A Waterfront lies dormant

"A R60 million desalination plant capable of producing 2 million litres of potable water a day, paid for by ratepayers, has been sitting dormant at the V&A Waterfront for the past three weeks. It is believed there is a contractual dispute between contractors and the City of Cape Town, which owns the plant. "

Read more on IOL


Ministers’ plan to end inequalities in access to water and sanitation

"Over 50 ministers came together to agree on joint action towards achieving universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene at the two-day SWA 2019 Sector Ministers’ Meeting. These discussions among ministers and their development partners mark a breakthrough in the global approach to the governance, financing and accountability of the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. 47 countries tabled commitments to action, with their civil society and private sector partners, donors and UN agencies making commitments to support them. The SWA 2019 Sector Ministers’ Meeting, the 6th of its kind, is organized by the Sanitation and Water for All global partnership and co-convened by UNICEF and the Inter-American Development Bank."

Read more in the article on Smart Energy International

This is why we don’t have water

"The department of water and sanitation is crippled.  Where water should be flowing, it isn’t. Where sewage shouldn’t be flowing, it is. The leaps made to give people water after 1994 are being reversed, and some 20-million people no longer get regular clean water. This is despite enough dams and pipelines being built to get water to 95% of the population. Most of this failure is the result of a cocktail of corruption, ineptitude and a shortage of engineering skills."

Read more in Mail and Guardian


Sewer spillage a never-ending battle

"Local residents say Emfuleni’s crumbling, “antiquated” wastewater network - the 2600km of pipes transporting sewage to Emfuleni’s three ailing wastewater treatment works, is in its worst-ever state.  Sewage is being spilled at a “record level” all the way from Evaton down to the multimillion-rand homes on the banks of the polluted Vaal River. “The situation is even now more dire than it has ever been in the history of Emfuleni local municipality,” remarks Rosemary Anderson, a spokesperson for waste and sanitation for the business chamber in the Vaal."

Read more in the article on IOL


Water crisis in Makhanda a microcosm of SA's looming health catastrophe - expert

"Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), in the Eastern Cape's Makana municipality, is in the grips of the worst water crisis in its history. Erratic water supply, failing sewage infrastructure, the toxicity of water in the region and the increase water-borne diseases are some of the troubles which have hit the area. Newly-appointed Makhanda mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa says the ongoing drought, coupled with striking municipal workers, compound the situation.

702's Eusebius McKaiser hosted panel of guest to discuss the current crisis in the historic town that is home to Rhodes University."

Listen to the panel discussion on Cape Talk

Protecting the heart of South Africa’s water supply

"Have you ever considered where South Africa’s water comes from? Not the streams, rivers and dams, but the actual sources – the critical water catchments – that feed our river systems and, in turn, our urban centres, economies downstream and our homes? Have you thought about the legal protection these water sources require, or whether they are indeed properly managed?"

Read the article in UCT News



Department of Water and Sanitation signals renewed efforts to manage SA’s water and sewerage systems

"South Africa’s water shortage challenges cannot be isolated from wastewater management systems which have been under pressure since 2010. There are warnings of a looming crisis which could leave the country without water in just 11 years. But it is only now, it appears, that the Department of Water and Sanitation is waking up to this possibility."

Read more in the full article on Daily Maverick


City of CT Plans to Spend Bulk of Water, Waste Projects

"The City of Cape Town is planning to focus the bulk of its spending on water and waste projects. The city’s draft budget for the 2019/20 financial year is out for public comment. Day Zero maybe last year’s news but the city is determined that residents should never again have to face the possibility of the taps running dry. That is why under the proposed budget more than half of the city's R8 billion capital expenditure will go to water and waste projects."

Read more on EWN



Limpopo dam levels continue to decline, says Water and Sanitation Department

"The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is calling on water users to continue using water sparingly as dam levels continue to drop weekly. The province’s average dam levels are at 65.7%, showing a decline compared to the same period when readings were last recorded at 73.4%. “The summary of the Water Management Area (WMA) for Limpopo reflects a decline compared to last year this time when water levels were 76.2% compared to the current 68.7%. The Olifants now stands at 63.5%, also showing a decline compared to last year’s 72.6%,” says DWS Media Liaison Director, Sputnik Ratau."

Read more on the Weekend Review