Pretoria (eTN) – Unlike other countries where tourists are advised to buy bottled water, with South Africa’s high quality of tap water, tourists need their holiday cash on bottled water, writes Luyanda Makapela.
While the country’s water users are encouraged to monitor the water’s quality, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry says this will help limit the spreading of misinformation regarding the quality of tap water.
Leonardo Manus, a Technical Regulation deputy director in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry said according to drinking water quality (DWQ) guidelines, issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa compared quite favourably with the standard of countries such as Canada.
Canada is one of the leading nations in managing the quality of tap water in the world.
“Drinking tap water in South Africa is very good and healthy. We take pride in stating that we have great confidence in the quality of the tap water reticulated in our cities and bigger towns,” he said.
Mr Manus said tap water posed no threat to the environment to the extent that bottled water did.
“While the quality of tap water is being preserved by the addition of chlorine, bottled water has a limited shelve-life due to the lack of residual disinfection,” he said.
But, bottled water, according to the Mr Manus, made a lot of sense when on the road and away from home. He said this could add a lot of value to a healthy style of living.
Mr Manus, however, said more work needed to be done before the department could claim the same level of confidence in the rural areas and smaller towns in the country.
“This is due to the fact that some of our communities are not connected to systems that provide treated water due to some historic disadvantages and a huge lack of technical capacity at smaller municipalities,” he said.
He said through the department’s regulation programme, various initiatives have been initiated to ensure a preventative culture was adopted by the sector as far as the management of drinking water quality is concerned.
“Municipal management is being sensitized on the importance of Drinking Water Quality management through various mediums to ensure that informed decisions are made by the Local Government,” Mr Manus said.
He said the department was also investigating incidents that could potentially pose a health risk and facilitate the rapid rectification of the unwanted situations.
“As part of the 2010 World Cup preparations, the department is joining hands with the host cities and town to get Water Safety and Security Plans in place to ensure that the municipalities are prepared for the occurrence of Drinking Water Quality failures,” Mr Manus said, adding that this would also help in putting early warning mechanisms in place.
The country’s largest water utility, Rand Water, has this week announced that it will spend R400 billion over the next five years on upgrading and refurbishing its bulk water distribution infrastructure that currently supplies water to more than 11 million people in Gauteng and parts of Mpumalanga, North West and Free State Provinces.
Of this amount, the Rand Water acting Chief Executive Officer Zvinaiye Manyere said 57 percent of the funds will be allocated to developing new infrastructure while 43 percent would deal with renovations and upgrades of existing infrastructure.
“As this (programme) is essential, we are currently engaged in this programme at approximately two percent (which is about 60 kilometres) of the total length of our pipeline network per year,” Mr Manyere said.
Rand Water operates a network of over 3 000 kilometres of pipelines with two combined pumping and purification stations, one pumping station, three booster pumping stations and a number of enclosed reservoirs.
Mr Manyere said pipelines accounted for around two-thirds of the value of its infrastructure which is estimated to be worth about R30 billion.
He said in the financial year to June 30, this year, Rand Water supplied an average of 3 550 megalitres of bulk water a day to municipalities, mines and industry customers.
“We want to ensure that we are ready for the demands of 2014 and beyond by focusing on infrastructure refurbishment and development in order to supply purely clean water to South African citizens,” said Mr Manyere.
Sue Freese of Water Institute for Southern Africa said the reason for the country’s clean water was because of the existing infrastructure which was properly maintained.
“South Africa has a good maintenance programme in place to avoid decay and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry is helpful in implementing drinking water qualification regulations to water authorities,” Ms Freese said.
She said the department’s holistic approach has made it possible for water authorities to adhere to the requirement standards.
“With the highly qualified staff dealing and necessary resources, I have no doubt these developments will pay off well by 2010,” said Ms Freese.