Contamination of the country’s water resources is escalating fast and all fingers point to poor governance. current electricity shortage could soon be exacerbated by an equally alarming water crisis, as more evidence of pollution and poor management comes to the fore. Many reasons are cited for the country’s poor water quality, among them ageing infrastructure and a lack of upkeep. T he cause of recent fish deaths in the Vaal Dam had authorities and environmentalists at loggerheads.
While authorities cited water temperature fluctuations and bacteriological pollution, environmentalists believe poor management of sewerage works and mining activity upstream are to blame. M ore factors include poor sanitation facilities due to housing shortages and the resulting expansion of informal settlements, and pollution from mining activity. A veritable water crisis is predicted after a recent National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) report on the Wonderfonteinspruit, not yet made public, alluded to test results from crops, livestock and water tested in the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment area. he area has been under the spotlight since early last year with community members and environmentalists saying wastewater from mining operations has seeped into the area’s groundwater system. he NNR report states: “Vegetables and fish collected in the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment area west of Johannesburg have been contaminated with radioactive uranium. The is testing milk and meat from cows grazing in the area.” It’s believed the water has also been contaminated by heavy metals and salts.
The Sunday Times of 3 February states: “Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has to focus energy and resources on more than 43% of the dams under their management that pose safety problems and require urgent repair. “Ageing water-service infrastructure in many of the major metropolitan areas requires billions of rands to replace.” But Marius Keet, deputy director of water quality management at the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, said the department haven’t given up yet. “We know exactly what we’re dealing with and believe we have the knowledge and means to make it better. “Municipalities have a lot of work to do in terms of infrastructure expansion and maintenance, but they also have to deal with sabotage, vandalism and non-payment, and a lack of qualified staff. There are a lot of problems, but we believe it can be done and we will do it.” – Cornelia du Plooy