Water, Sewage & Effluent January-February 2017 - Page 3

municipalities comment

This should be a wake-up call

While it is always good to drive home the point that the country ’ s citizens must step up and save water — especially in light of the current water crisis — it is perhaps pertinent to ask when government will put up its hand and take responsibility for its part in creating the problem .

Sure , South Africa is in the midst of its worst drought in decades and that cannot be blamed on government . However , a lot can be said for the state ’ s failure to prepare for this calamity adequately . After all , the drought did not sneak up on us without warning and water experts have been saying for years that the country is facing a looming water shortage , unless something drastic is done in terms of infrastructure development , upgrades and maintenance .
Does this sound familiar ? Well , it should . Similar warnings were issued years before the country started running out of electricity , but instead of acting , those at the helm sat and passively watched as the situation worsened , until load-shedding arrived in all earnestness in 2008 . By then it was too late to do much about it ( power stations are not built overnight ) and constant power interruptions cost the economy billions of rands .
I don ’ t remember a single government official taking responsibility for the state ’ s failure to plan adequately for sufficient electricity generation . On the contrary , the situation was obfuscated with much political spin and rhetoric about the legacy of apartheid , and so the onus fell on citizens to save electricity and reduce ‘ unnecessary ’ usage , or face penalties in the form of power interruptions .
Perhaps this is sounding familiar too . And again , it should , because the onus to stave off the water crisis has largely been placed on the country ’ s citizens , who have to adhere to water restrictions , or face fines and even criminal charges .
Incredibly , those at the wheel are still fast asleep and the reality of water shedding seems to be doing little to rouse our political leadership . Unfortunately , the consequences of water shedding will be far more devastating than those of load-shedding .
A recent investigative report into the water crisis by one of the country ’ s daily newspapers highlights government ’ s failures quite succinctly :
• South Africa ’ s dam building programme is a decade behind schedule ;
• Faulty pumps result in the loss of great amounts of water ;
• Leaks and poor water infrastructure lead to a tremendous loss of water each year ; and
• Poor or dysfunctional sewage plants result in large amounts of sewage flowing into rivers and dams . We cannot afford for the situation to get any worse , so it is high time for those in power to wake up and smell something rancid . Sadly , though , I cannot see this happening . I suspect we will be left with little more than a sense of déjà vu . u
Martin Czernowalow | Editor
Water Sewage & Effluent January / February 2017 1