13 July 2012

South Africa: Limpopo Losing Millions of Kilolitres of Water Each Month

press release

South Africa is a water scarce country, yet millions of kilolitres of water are lost every month due to failing municipal infrastructure.

A reply to a DA parliamentary question has revealed that, as of the latest data, an average of 44 million kilolitres of water is lost every year through transmission leakage in Limpopo alone.

At 3.7 million kilolitres per month, the Province is losing the equivalent of a large dam every month, as defined by the World Commission on Dams.

The Minister of Water needs to intensify the war on water leaks.

The bad news in this instance is that monthly water losses represent an average percentage loss of total use of 66.5%. Water demand outstrips supply by a magnitude of 5.7. The amount of water supplied is 17.5% of the water demanded. If 66.5% of the supply is being lost, the truth is that actual delivery represents 5.9% of the total demanded. This situation is untenable at best. Moreover, the data is sorely outdated in many instances, an indication that monitoring - a key to sustainable delivery - is inadequate.

It is laudable that the department is providing significant support with regard to the provision of bulk water infrastructure that essentially delivers water to municipalities. R2.3 billion has been set aside to complete four such development projects. However, more needs to be done to detect and repair leaking infrastructure within municipalities.

Whilst the quality and management of drinking water in Limpopo is generally good, with a Blue Drop Report score of 79.4% (4th place nationally), the above figures reveal that good water is being lost, despite hundreds of thousands of citizens of this province still not having access to a basic water service.

Fixing leaks in municipal infrastructure is one of the first interventions required to secure our water resources. Reducing leaks alone could reduce the need for new bulk infrastructure projects in certain parts of the country. Access to clean drinking water is a constitutionally enshrined progressive right, and government must do everything in its power to realise it.

Marti Wenger, Shadow Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs

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