The Green, Blue and No Drop Certification programs are regulatory mechanisms of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).As the water sector regulator in terms of both the National Water Act and Water Services Act, DWS introduced these incentive-based regulation programs first with the Blue Drop Report in 2008, the Green Drop Report in 2008, and the No Drop Report in 2014. In 2014, DWS stopped the programs. Minister Mchunu reintroduced the programs after he was appointed in late 2021. In 2022, DWS released the 2022 Green Drop Report and the 2022 Blue Drop Progress Report.
Purpose of the Drop ReportsThe aim of this uniquely South African regulatory tool is to improve municipal drinking water quality, wastewater management as well as water conservation and demand management. The reports keep the public and stakeholders informed and updated with credible data and information about the state of water and sanitation services in the country. The reports also recognise water services institutions that achieve compliance and excellence in providing such services. This serves as an incentive for water services institutions to improve their performance. The reports identify what needs to be done to address each of the identified shortcomings. In this regard, the reports are a support mechanism, in addition to being a regulatory mechanism, because they provide the owners of the infrastructure with advice and guidance as to how to improve their water and sanitation services. The Water Cycle Water for domestic use goes through a cycle. Raw water is drawn from rivers and dams and treated in Water Treatment Works by either water boards or municipalities before it is supplied to households. The treated water is required by law to meet drinking water standards set by the South African Bureau of Standards in South African National Standard (SANS) 241. Municipalities and water boards are also required to conduct regular tests on the treated water to ensure that it complies with the standard. After the water has been used by households, it goes through the sewer system to municipal Waste Water Treatment Works. The Waste Water Treatment Works remove waste from the water and then return the water to the rivers. The effluent from Waste Water Treatment Works which goes into rivers is also required to meet minimum standards, set by the Department of Water and Sanitation. The Green and Blue Drop reports The Green Drop report is a comprehensive assessment of the state of all wastewater treatment systems in South Africa, including municipal, Department of Public Works, and private wastewater treatment systems. The Blue Drop report is a similar assessment of the state of all drinking water systems (including water treatment works) in the country. Both reports include assessments of the condition of the infrastructure; whether the capacity of the infrastructure is sufficient to deal with the demand; whether the required maintenance is being done on the infrastructure, whether the infrastructure is operated correctly; whether the proper treatment processes are followed; whether proper monitoring and controls are in place; and whether the staff has the necessary skills and qualifications.
The No Drop reportThe No Drop report is an assessment of the degree to which the drinking water distribution systems of municipalities supply water efficiently, without wasting water. The assessment includes the levels of physical water losses in the system (for example through leaks in pipes); levels of non-revenue water; the amount of water used per customer per day; whether infrastructure is being maintained properly to minimise wastage; the existence of plans and strategies to reduce water losses; the effectiveness of metering, billing and revenue collection systems.
The Green, Blue and No Drop Watch ReportsFor each drop report, a full assessment is released every two years, and an interim report is released in the alternate year. Given that the full Green Drop report was released last year, this year we are releasing the Green Drop interim report. The Green Drop interim report is being released in two parts. Today the Department has released the 2023 Green Drop Watch report, which focuses on the progress of municipalities in addressing the findings of the 2022 full Green Drop report. In July this year, we will release the Green Drop Risk Report, which will identify the critical risk areas for wastewater treatment systems in the country. In July this year, the Department will release the full 2023 Blue Drop Report, which will be a complete assessment of the state of all drinking water systems in the country. Today the Department has released the 2023 Blue Drop Watch Report, which provides a technical assessment (covering the condition of infrastructure and drinking water quality) of a sample of the drinking water supply systems in the country. The full Blue Drop report will cover all drinking water supply systems in the country and will also include non-technical aspects such as the skills and qualifications of municipal staff. In September this year, the Department will release the full 2023 No Drop Report. Today the Department has released the 2023 No Drop Watch Report, which is based on water conservation and demand management reports received from a sample of municipalities. The information was used to extrapolate projections regarding the extent of water losses and non-revenue water in the country.
Summary of Findings in the Green Drop Watch ReportThe 2022 full Green Drop report identified 334 wastewater systems in critical condition, in 90 municipalities. Following the release of the 2022 Green Drop report in April 2022, the Department issued non-compliance notices to all these municipalities, requesting the municipalities to submit corrective action plans to address the shortcomings identified in the report. The Department received corrective action plans from municipalities for 168 of the 334 wastewater systems (i.e., a 50% response rate). 43 of the 90 municipalities requested support from the Department to develop corrective action plans. At the end of March 2023, only 34 of the 168 plans submitted to the department were being implemented, with the balance being in the planning phase or no progress reported. For those municipalities which did not submit corrective action plans, the Department has issued directives in terms of the National Water Act compelling them to submit such plans. Criminal charges have been laid against some of the municipalities which have not submitted corrective action plans. Summary of Findings in the Blue Drop Watch Report 151 out of 1035 water treatment systems in the country were sampled. All water service authorities were covered by the sample. In terms of the condition of water treatment infrastructure, 3% of the sampled systems were found to be in a critical infrastructural condition; 12% were found to be in a poor infrastructural condition; 49% were found to be in an average infrastructural condition, 31% in a good infrastructural condition; and 5% in an excellent infrastructural condition. In terms of SANS 241, municipalities are required to monitor the microbiological and chemical quality of the water provided to residents at specified intervals, including hourly, daily, weekly, fortnightly, and monthly tests of various types. Microbiological compliance measures how well the treatment process is removing harmful bacteria and other microorganisms from the water.
Chemical compliance measures the chemical suitability of the water for human consumption, as well as for the protection of infrastructure and household equipment.SANS 241 is informed by World Health Organisation Guidelines, in terms of which at least 97% (i.e., good or excellent compliance) of tests for microbiological contaminants and chemical compliance conducted over a year should comply with water quality standards, for the water to be considered safe to drink. Water quality tests carried out by the municipalities themselves during the 2021/2022 municipal financial year were assessed. The results were rated as bad (< 95% of water quality tests meet SANS 241 standards); poor (95-97% of water quality tests meet SANS 241 standards); good (97-99% of water quality tests meet SANS 241 standards) or excellent (> 99% of water quality tests meet SANS 241 standards). The assessment indicates that:
- 39% of systems achieved excellent, 11% of systems achieved good, 9% achieved poor, and 41% achieved bad microbiological water quality compliance.
- 17% of systems achieved excellent, 13% of systems achieved good, 15% achieved poor, and 55% achieved bad chemical water quality compliance