Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 30 April 2010
The Department of Water Affairs finds that 7,4% of all wastewater systems can be classified as excellently managed, but the reality remains that various levels of improvement are required in about 55% of the systems assessed.
Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica has asked the Treasury for a staggering R23 billion over the next six years to fix waste water treatment works that need “urgent” attention.
Sonjica said yesterday the bill for refurbishing the plants could rise even higher, as the figure was an estimate. She said that while there was reason for concern at the parlous state of the country’s sewage treatment works, “we have not reached crisis levels”.
She briefed journalists at the Union Buildings at the release of the much-delayed Green Drop report, an assessment of how sewage treatment works are performing.
Water experts have expressed concern over deteriorating conditions at the plants, which treat just under 7 600 megalitres of waste water every day.
Poorly treated waste water pollutes land and rivers, posing problems for farmers, damage to eco- systems and health risks.
Only 449 of the country’s 850 waste-water treatment works were assessed, with the rest either ignoring, or being unable to comply with the call to submit to scrutiny.
The report puts a capital replacement value of the country’s waste water treatment systems at R23bn – the amount Sonjica says she needs to deal with “hot spots”.
Her department’s acting chief director for water services and regulation, Leonardo Manus, said R12.6bn was needed for infrastructure, R1.4bn for operational expenditure – including hiring technicians, scientists and engineers – while R9.2bn was required for pump station networks and water reticulation infrastructure.
Sonjica said the R23bn was an estimate of the cost of dealing with problems only at the 50 percent of municipal treatment works assessed.
Stringent risk-based assessment criteria for the remaining 401 municipalities are being introduced, but details would only be announced later.
Only 32 treatment works – about 7 percent of the total – complied with the Green Drop criteria after being measured for E.coli bacteria, nitrates, phosphates and ammonia among other factors.
More than 400 municipalities, including those not assessed, have been put under “close surveillance” and issued with legal directives requiring them to meet waste water treatment standards, said Sonjica. Four environmental courts are to be set up next month to deal with cases involving municipalities, mines and industries that contravene the law.
Sonjica gave the assurance there was no crisis. “If we had a crisis we would be talking about an outbreak of diseases, but we don’t want to get there and we won’t get there.
“When everybody is sick; that would be a crisis,” said Sonjica.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka was also concerned, Sonjica said.
View the Green Drop Report 2009 version 1