Karoo towns fail to keep water clean

Water is not kept clean in karoo towns.

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This week, the Western Cape government announced a 100 % clean audit across all of its departments, and Ratings Afrika’s independent report gave the provincial government the highest rating.

However, despite being regarded as the nation’s best-run province, 18 of the 25 municipalities in the Western Cape consistently fail to provide clean drinking water, according to data from the national Department of Water and Sanitation ( DWS ).

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Since 14 municipalities have been failing to provide drinking water that complies with minimum quality standards over the past five years, the situation has gotten worse. The Kannaland municipality of Little Karoo has been the worst offender since 2018.

The Independent Civic Organization of South Africa( ICOSA) is in charge of the Kannaland municipality, which includes the towns of Ladismith, Zoar, Calitzdorp, and Van WyksdORp. Since 2011, the ICOSA and ANC have primarily worked together in coalition; it has never had a clear majority. For a while in 2018, the ANC and DA collaborated to reduce ICOSA’s representation in the seven-seat council.

In addition to consistently providing clean water, this municipality doesn’t even check the water for various health indicators.

Additionally, the municipality ignored GroundUp’s inquiries for this article.

indicators of water health

The municipality’s six drinking water quality indicators are supposed to be regularly examined. The Department of Water and Sanitation’s( DWS ) Integrated Regulatory Information System ( IRIS ) must receive the results.

Only one indicator, microbiological contamination, that directly affects human health is examined by the Kannaland municipality. Faecal bacteria like E. coli are measured in the water using the” Acute Health: Microbiological” indicator. Although feces are naturally present in the gut, eating them can be fatal for young children and those whose immune systems are weak.

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In a 100ml sample of drinking water, the concentration of E. coli, expressed as colony forming units( cfu ), and the sum of all faecal bacteria should be less than 10. Only 75 % of the samples from the Kannaland municipality this year met this quality requirement. The DWS claims that it must satisfy the requirements at least 97 % of the time.

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However, the average for faecal bacteria in Kannaland’s four municipal water distribution systems — Ladismith, Zoar, Calitzdorp, and Van Wyksp — is 75 %. While Ladismith’s water treatment facilities typically meet the microbiological requirements 99.9 % of the time( putting them in the” excellent” range for this indicator ), the Kannaland municipality has only occasionally ( by 53 % of this year ) met the minimum requirement for faecal bacteria in Zoar. With an 88 % success rate, the Van Wyksdorp water treatment works have consistently met the microbiological standard.

Other health indicators are not tested.

Kannaland is classified as” bad” in terms of fecal bacteria in the water. The other two health indicators, which are chemicals with acute( short-term, or immediate ) health impacts, are not even tested. Additionally, it doesn’t check for operational, disinfectant, or aesthetic( color and smell ) indicators.

The percentage for each of these five indicators is shown as zero on the DWS website. On the DWS National Water Services Knowledge System, there is confirmation that no testing is conducted( which is required ).

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The drinking water quality data from DWS dates back to 2018 and shows a five-year decline. Although it still falls within the DWS’s” bad” bracket of less than 95 %, the municipality as a whole achieved 94 % for microbiological indicators in 2018. For the previous five years, no additional health-related tests have been reported.

Prior to use, boil

Enrico Hardie, a confectionery owner in Zoar, said,” The drinking water is bad.” The water, he claimed,” became so discolored in the summer that it looked like a cup of coffee.” Unless you boil it first, nobody drinks that. Toward the end of the summer, the taps frequently ran dry.

Despite working in the health industry as well, he claimed that instead of seeing” hundreds of cases of diarrhoea” as one might anticipate, people were very responsible for boiling the water first because it had been unreliable for so long.

He claimed that the provincial government had hired an environmental expert to speak with the municipality. At a neighborhood gathering last year, I ran into him. They would begin working on the water purification, he declared.

The Premier’s office received inquiries about initiatives to enhance water quality, but no response was given prior to publication.

Assessment of Blue Drop

The Blue Drop Watch Report 2023 examined 151 of South Africa’s 1, 186 water supply systems, including the Ladismith system, and found chemical compliance to be higher than 99.9 %, despite the DWS system not displaying any analyses for it. However, it noted that 92.3 % of microbiological compliance fell short of the required level and posed” a significant risk for community health.”

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According to DWS minister Senzo Mchunu, the Blue Drop Watch Report, which was released on June 6, was an interim report that was written from a” technical perspective” prior to the full report and did not look into Calitzdorp, Zoar, or Van WyksdORp’s water supply.

The complete Blue Drop Report would be made available in” mid-July” of this year, according to Mchunu’s foreword to the report. It hasn’t been made public yet.

A Western Cape inter-departmental task team has been meeting with the Kannaland municipality to monitor water quality on a quarterly basis, according to DWS spokesman Wisane Mavasa. The most recent meeting was on Monday.

Kannaland did not analyze and report indicators other than those for microbiological contamination, according to Mavase, making it in violation of the law. Although engineers from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs ( COGTA ) Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency ( MISA ) were providing assistance, he claimed that the provincial government’s four-month secondment of a chief engineer to Kannaland was insufficient.

According to him, DWS met with senior municipal management in April to inform them that they lacked qualified process controllers and to issue a funding warning.

Since then, DWS has implemented plans to oversee Kannaland’s water and sanitation operations and presented an action plan for task team meetings.

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Words: GroundUp / Steve Kretzmann

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Steve Kretzmann / GroundUp image

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