Yesterday, the Department of Water Affairs once again distanced itself from the water shortages experienced by communities across the country. The Department claimed that its critics are ignoring the constitutional responsibilities of municipalities to ensure an adequate and sustained supply of water to the communities they served.
The DA has, in fact, called on the Minister to take stronger action against municipal water service authorities that are failing to deliver on their constitutional mandate. We have also repeatedly emphasised that failures across the country to deliver clean and reliable water is a collective failure in water governance.
This collective, however, undeniably includes the Minister of Water Affairs.
Section 3 of the National Water Act describes the responsibilities of the minister in terms of public trusteeship of the nation’s water resources. It clearly states that the “National Government, acting through the Minister, has the power to regulate the use, flow and control of all water in the Republic”.
The Minister and her Department act as the regulator and ultimately have oversight over water supply. If municipalities are not performing, the national minister cannot watch from the sidelines.
It is our contention that the current Blue Drop water management system does not serve as a sufficient basis for the Minister to deliver on her responsibilities as outlined in the Act.
Government itself estimates that up to 25% of people who have access to a tap are still without an acceptable level of service. This is principally a result of failing municipal infrastructure, but management problems are increasingly highlighted as a contributing factor.
The Blue Drop system that the Department of Water is currently using to aid water service authorities to improve their ability to deliver potable water is not performing adequately as an early monitoring system, despite ‘process control management’ and ‘water safety planning’ being prominent scorecard indicators in the Blue Drop system.
It is imperative that a new assessment measure be added to the Blue Drop Report, that being, the reliability of the supply of water by water services authorities. We believe that such a change will aid the Minister in delivering on her mandate. Secondly, this must be backed up by minimum standards against which actual performance by municipalities can be measured. Where there are continued failures, the national Department should be engaging with the relevant water service authority over remediation measures. Where necessary, it should encourage water services authorities to enter into arrangements with alternative service providers, be it water boards or private sector players, to take over the functions of water supply.
If it is true that as many as 25% of people do not have access to an acceptable level of water service then that equates to over 12 million South Africans. This excludes the over 2 million South Africans who do not have any service at all. It is within the Minister’s power to improve this situation by bolstering the Blue Drop system and taking action against errant municipalities.
The minister and her department are not the victims here. They have to spearhead the collective effort to ensure the reliable supply of safe water and stop hiding behind the constitution.
Marti Wenger, Shadow Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs
Source Article from http://allafrica.com/stories/201207181182.html
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