The government’s latest Blue Drop report has confirmed the growing concern in South Africa’s tap water quality and management processes in numerous rural districts and a few towns.23% of municipalities has been listed at critical risk by the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and residents are warned to boil water before use for safe drinking. The Blue Drop Progress Report revealed a decline in the safety of tap water procedures across the nation in comparison to previous similar assessments. According to the audit based on nearly 1,200 water supply systems nationwide between January and December 2020, 40% of systems complied with South African legal standards for microbiological water quality compliance, and only 23% achieved chemical water quality compliance. Meaning that 60% of systems did not comply with microbiological standards and 77% failed the chemical treatment requirements.
The department said the microbiological tests include E. coli/faecal coliform bacteria, which is a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination.Thus, less than half (48%) of the country’s water supply systems are said to be “low risk” (a legal and desirable status) while the remainder failed the Blue Drop risk quality tests for excellence in water quality management. Msunduzi Local Municipality (Pietermaritzburg), the capital of KwaZulu-Natal is an example of this, where the national rankings mostly focus on the poor performance of a large number of smaller, rural schemes which make up 62% of all the systems assessed. However, the report also highlighted the poor performance of water supply in some of the large centres. Almost a quarter (23%) were ranked at “critical risk”; 11% at “high risk” and 18% at “medium risk”. The DWS has likened the critical risk category to a hospital Intensive Care Unit.