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By Kyle Zeeman

Deputy Digital Editor

Decline in water services, but minister warns of exaggerating ‘crisis’

Minister Senzo Mchunu said the issue remains with water supply and delivery, not availability.

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has admitted many municipalities are failing to deliver sufficient safe drinking water but has warned about generalising issues into a crisis.

Mchunu spoke on the state of the nation’s water on Tuesday, reflecting on the government’s Blue Drop and Green Drop Certification programmes. The programmes aim to ensure safe drinking water and proper water management through constant audits of water boards and providers.

Mchunu said the ministry was working more closely with struggling municipalities to improve delivery, revealing that many local governments were failing.

READ ALSO: Water crisis: Municipalities up the creek without a paddle

“There is a concerning decline in the performance of many municipalities, in terms of drinking water systems, since the last report was released in 2014. This is bad news.”

The 2023 Blue Drop Watch report released in May, found 15% of South Africa’s water supply systems are in a poor and/or critical condition.

Mchunu said the decline led to talks of a “water crisis”, but warned against exaggerating the problems.

“If the people of South Africa want to use “crisis” to describe what they experience, they are free to do so. We will not ban the word, but we are encouraging everyone to contextualise this.

“To generalise a situation faced by a family or a village as a national crisis is where we want to encourage people to avoid exaggerating”.

READ ALSO: Water shortage is the next disaster

He said the issue remains with water supply and delivery, not availability.

“Where we see more difficulties is on the water supply side, than on water availability. The dams are full. We want to translate what we see in dams into household supply.”

The National Water and Sanitation Master Plan also warned the demand for water may exceed available supply in SA within seven years, with seven of the 13 major water systems in South Africa predicted to run out by 2040.

Marketing director at waste management company Interwaste Kate Stubbs told The Citizen areas in the country, such as the Eastern Cape, may run out sooner than anticipated. 

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