Gauteng and NW Province

Fewer drops to drink

SCHALK MOUTON | 01 August, 2013

Dr Anthony Turton, a scientist specialising in water resource management, said vacancy rates in the sector are a “catastrophe”.

“We are in a dilemma where the definition of a dilemma is a problem without any current solution,” he said.

Figures in a National Water Resource Strategy document show that to properly maintain our ailing and ageing water infrastructure, we need:

  • Approximately 3000 engineers (a 57% vacancy rate);
  • 7200 health and hygiene/environmental health practitioners in the medium term;
  • 23000 management staff. Around 1400 are required immediately, 246 of which are construction project managers, construction managers, engineer managers and technical project managers; and
  • An urgent need for 4000 artisans and technicians.

Turton believes almost all the water infrastructure in the country is in a state of disrepair. While it is believed the total cost to fix this would be around R600-billion, he believes the cost might be much higher.

“We have to balance three numbers: We’ve got 49 billion cubic metres of water in our rivers. We’ve got 38 billion cubic metres in our dams, which is the hydrolic foundation of our economy. If we want to create full employment in our country, we need 62 billion cubic metres,” he said.

“The challenge is to balance these numbers. Water is fundamental to job-creation plans. You need to properly manage water before you can even think about job creation.”

The Department of Water Affairs’s “All Towns Study”, a survey that looked at the long-term water requirements for all municipalities, showed that 30% of towns (273 out of 905) are currently running at a water deficit.

“It is concerning that we are seeing the problem go from small villages to larger towns,” said Richard Holden, a business analyst at the Trans Caledonian Tunneling Authority, which is billed with planning and maintaining bulk water infrastructure.

Trevor Balzer, acting Director General of the DWA, said the problem is related to the large skills gap and to funding.

The DWA has training and bursary schemes to deal with its own skills deficiencies, and is working with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to help build skills in the water sector at municipal level, where most of the problems exist.

Pieter Frewen, a DA member in the provincial legislature, said 80% of water supply problems are due to poor management, not capacity.

Holden believes the public sector doesn’t have enough resources to attract the necessary skills.

“The salaries can’t attract engineers to localities where you need them,” he said. “The salary offered and the experience they want do not match,” he said.

Is this not the problem we face almost everywhere at the moment? Whilst corruptions persists people suffer and none suffer as badly than those without water. Krugersdorp has been without water for five days already. A water tanker is supplying water at an old age home with one tap where the water must be fetched from. How do you expect old people to carry water from point a to point b? It is indeed a sad case of affairs. Businesses are running out of water, it is an extremely dangerous state of affairs. Don’t wait and be caught unaware, without water. Install a Jojo water tank and have an emergency supply. 

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