A total of R126 billion is needed to fund new infrastructure to revive SA’s dwindling water resources.

However, endemic corruption in project development and drought has rendered the country among the 30 driest in the world.

This is what President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday in in his weekly online newsletter. He asserts that the country did its utmost to rescue itself out of its waterless hole over the last 25 years.

“To ensure our future water security, we will need funding of at least R126 billion for infrastructure. With existing freshwater supplies dwindling, we will be focusing on projects that broaden our water resource mix.

“For example, Phase 1 of the uMkhomazi Water Project will prioritise the re-use of effluent, and projects like the Groot Letaba Water Augmentation Project in Limpopo and the Mzimvubu Water Project in the Eastern Cape will develop groundwater sources,” he wrote.

According to Ramaphosa, the Medupi power project communities – including villagers and business people – were questioning the serious lack of access to water in the area. They told him they struggled to sustain their lives, support agriculture, drive business, and supply the Medupi project itself.

“SA is a severely water stressed country. In fact, with an average annual rainfall of 500mm, compared to a global average of 860mm, we are the world’s 30th driest country. A decade-long drought has put immense pressure on our water systems and has had a devastating impact on agriculture and communities, especially in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga.”

Dam levels were on average 58%, compared to 69% last year.

Ramaphosa says tender corruption in mega projects for the construction of water infrastructure is putting the nation’s water security at risk.

He further cited the persistent accountability and governance issues that impeded the building of infrastructure, as well as municipalities that experienced water losses caused by billing errors, unauthorised usage and outright theft of water resources.

The president praised the work of the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) which raided the head office of the Lepelle Northern Water, a subsidiary of the department of water and sanitation, for alleged corruption at the Giyani Water Project.

Ramaphosa said the ongoing SIU probes into irregularities in all the projects would continue. More corruption was being probed at municipalities.

“Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Domestic users must use water more sparingly and reduce their consumption. Municipalities must invest in water recycling technologies that save both water and money. Industrial users must implement measures towards use efficiency,” he wrote.

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