As someone who has beaten the water quality drum for many years (search this blog for ‘water crisis’ articles) it is always pleasing when politicians recognize the pivotal role that water quality holds for South Africa. This topic is currently receiving increased attention due to the very severe drought conditions currently being experienced.
The Democratic Alliance has been somewhat quiet on water quality issues since the days when Gareth Morgan held the portfolio. Today, however, the Sunday Times (November 15, 2015, pg 18, see following post) carried an opinion piece by no less a DA member than its leader, Mr Mmusi Maimane, entitled “So little water, so much poor management of it“. To my knowledge, addressing such a topic is a first for any leader of a political party in this country!
The article reads, inter alia, that “[to] make matters worse, the quality of water is also declining. Our municipal waste-water system…is under extreme pressure, with as many [sic] as 90% of waste-water treatment works dysfunctional“. Furthermore, “…possibly up to two-thirds of our national stored water resources in dams and watercourses is eutrophic“. Here Mr Maimane is referring to the legacy of inaction on the level of wastewater treatment required to prevent South African reservoirs from becoming eutrophic, a legacy that persists from the previous regime of government (see review article here for details).
Mr Maimane correctly notes that, the dire circumstances notwithstanding, there is still hope for mitigation. What remains is for the ANC government to stop denying that there is a crisis, stop focussing solely on water quantity and to move demonstrably towards the application of more appropriate science and technology for the management of South African surface waters.
(Bill Harding is a South African aquatic scientist with a long history of experience in eutrophication and toxic algae. He is a Certified Lake Manager – a USA certification and is the only person so registered in South Africa).