South Africa faces crisis as 81% of sewage discharge not adequately treated: AfriForum
In 81% of cases, water from 140 sewage wastewater treatment works (SWWTWs) released into rivers tested by AfriForum this year had not been adequately treated.
This is one of the conclusions in AfriForum’s latest blue drop (drinking water quality) and green drop (management of wastewater services) report.
The 2023 report contains the results of water quality samples AfriForum’s 161 branches took of municipal drinking water and the outflow of processed sewage water from SWWTWs in August.
AfriForum said it launched its report in Vereeniging at a broken sewage pump station to show the decay of municipal sewage infrastructure. The organisation said this was one of hundreds of locations nationwide where fresh water sources, such as the Vaal River, that supply drinking water to communities, are polluted with raw sewage.
From the outflow of 140 SWWTWs tested this year, only 19% met the minimum standards.
“In almost 81% of cases, water SWWTWs dump into rivers has not been adequately treated,” it said.
The report said the country's drinking water still largely met the minimum requirements. Of 193 drinking water tests, eight were unsafe for human consumption.
AfriForum said since 2013 it had compiled independent blue and green drop reports annually to make reliable information about the quality of South Africa’s drinking and sewage water available to the public.
The organisation did this to fill a void left after the department of water and sanitation did not publish blue and green drop test reports for almost a decade.
Though the department resumed its national blue and green drop project in 2022, AfriForum still fulfils an important watchdog function through which pressure can be applied to the department and municipalities to call these institutions to account.
“The water tests determine, among other things, the presence of the bacteria E coli, which can cause diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and kidney failure, and faecal coliform bacteria, which can cause diseases such as typhoid fever, hepatitis and dysentery,” AfriForum environmental affairs adviser Marais de Waal said.
“The results of this year’s tests are cause for concern about the overall state of the management of the water supply chain in South Africa.”
Though water tests were only carried out in places where AfriForum has branches, and the results only applied to the time at which the water samples were taken, the results painted a picture of the overall health of South Africa’s water, he said.
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