Gauteng and NW Province

Water supply and sanitation in South Africa

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This article has last been updated on substance in October 2012. However, some sections of the article may be outdated since they rely on older sources.

Water supply and sanitation in South Africa is characterized by both achievements and challenges. After the end of Apartheid South Africa’s newly elected government inherited huge services backlogs with respect to access to water supply and sanitation. About 15 million people were without safe water supply and over 20 million without adequate sanitation services. The government thus made a strong commitment to high service standards and to high levels of investment subsidies to achieve those standards. Since then, the country has made satisfactory progress with regard to improving access to water supply: It reached universal access to an improved water source in urban areas, and in rural areas the share of those with access increased from 66% to 79% from 1990 to 2010.[1] South Africa also has a strong water industry with a track record in innovation. However, much less progress has been achieved on sanitation: Access increased only from 71% to 79% during the same period.[1] Significant problems remain concerning the financial sustainability of service providers, leading to a lack of attention to maintenance. The uncertainty about the government’s ability to sustain funding levels in the sector is also a concern. Two distinctive features of the South African water sector are the policy of free basic water and the existence of water boards, which are bulk water supply agencies that operate pipelines and sell water from reservoirs to municipalities.

A pity those ‘backlogs’ just seem to be getting worse and worse…….. Another “challenge”….. Our water is so polluted it is frightening. But I suppose we have been lucky al these years. Not many countries where you can drink municipal water. I must admit though, once you have used harvested rainwater inside your house it is very difficult to use municipal water again. You can immediately feel the harshness (chemicals) of the municipal water on your skin. Are we then really lucky?

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