Photo: EPA / Kim Ludbrook

As water systems fail across South Africa, rural communities look to self-supply

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Originally published on the Daily Maverick: About half of municipal wastewater and water treatment works across South Africa are in a poor or critical condition. Many need urgent rehabilitation, and 11% are dysfunctional. Over three million people still do not have access to a basic water supply service. Self-supply in partnership with government could be the answer.

In the lead-up to Mandela Day, we reflect on the many meanings of Thuma Mina. It’s a presidential campaign to re-ignite the South African spirit of working together and working for the nation. It’s a song of hope by Hugh Masakela. It’s a traditional church chorus. It’s the optimistic and disillusioned Ramaphoria that gripped many South Africans and that has seen a tapering out since elections. It’s also a “joke phrase” used to anecdotally describe the trouble South Africa is really in. Whichever way you choose to look at it, it’s a call (or a cry) to action.

Several national departments have begun to realise the importance of this call – one being the Ministry of (now Human Settlements) Water and Sanitation emphasizing the case for local water management and the need for partnerships to address the water service backlog, particularly in rural communities.

The department has acknowledged some sobering facts. Around half of municipal wastewater and water treatment works across the country are in a poor or critical condition. Many need urgent rehabilitation, and 11% are completely dysfunctional. Over three million people still do not have access to a basic water supply service and over 14.1 million people do not have access to safe sanitation. Some 77% of rural households are indigent (entitled to free basic water), which places a significant strain on municipalities with a low revenue base.

But more and more, the case is being made for “self-supply” of water services. So, Thuma Mina is the call that many communities have been realising for decades through supplying their own services. Read more in the IWMI Op-Ed in The Daily Maverick: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-07-12-as-water-systems-fail-across-the-country-rural-communities-look-to-self-supply/

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