MINISTER’S REPLY INDICATES WATER CRISIS FOR FS

Roy Jankielsohn MPL

DA Leader in the Free State

South Africa is in the top thirty driest countries in the world with an average annual rainfall of 450mm compared to the 860 mm globally. The Free State is no exception to this and as a result the province needs to prioritise the management of scarce water resources. The DA in the Free State is concerned that available water resources are being wasted and mismanaged.

The DA requested Ms Martie Wenger DA MP and parliamentary water affairs spokesperson to ask a number of pertinent questions in parliament (see 3 attachments per municipality) about the status of water management in Free State municipalities. In reply to the DA questions the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms B.E.E. Molewa, indicated that water losses in municipalities remain a serious concern. She indicated that the average water losses in Free State municipalities amount to 9 005 590 kilolitres (1 KL = 1000 L) per month.

Further cause for concern is that the water demand in the Free State far outweighs current water supplies. The water demand across all municipalities is 7 564 143.60 megalitres (1 ML = 1 million L) while supply is 240 191.88 megalitres per month. This implies that the Free State is already in the midst of a water crisis. This also places serious constraints on future economic development and growth, which are heavily reliant on sustainable supplies of water and electricity.

Municipalities can not afford to incur huge water losses, most of which are post purification and thus cost ratepayers millions of rands per month. In this regard the national department has allocated R27 174 060 towards solving the problem in the Free State. One of the largest allocations is in Setsoto (Senekal, Marquard, Clocolan, and Ficksburg) that has received R7 million. The money has however not been able to assist residents of Marquard who have been without a steady supply of water for months. Monetary allocations have to be accompanied with technical and management skills.

While the DA welcomes the national government interventions, the lack of technical and management expertise at local government level are hampering attempts to remedy the situation. The provincial government also appears unable to assist the municipalities in this regard.

The province will have to investigate additional measures to increase the supply, and improve the management, of water in the province. Mangaung Metro has serious challenges regarding the sustainability of water supplies over the next decade, due to among others the silting up of the Welbedacht Dam. This could possibly be overcome with a canal from the Caledon River into the existing water feeding sources such as the Modder River. Although such options are costly, there will be no cheap or quick fix solutions to this major problem.

The replies from the national minister clearly indicate that the Free State is already facing a water crisis. Besides the economic implications of this, it also affects political stability due to imminent service delivery protests and even violence that often accompanies human rights issues. The protests in Setsoto last year that resulted in the death of Andries Tatane were partially as a result of water management issues. The right to water is entrenched in our Bill of Rights and people can not survive or develop without it.

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