For a fourth year running, municipalities have shown an improvement in the management of drinking water quality in South Africa, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Monday, announcing the results of the 2012 Blue Drop Certification Programme.
Molewa said that the latest report showed “significant improvements”, which highlighted the positive impact that the incentive-based regulation approach had on the South African water sector.
The overall national Blue Drop assessment score increased from 72.9% in 2011 to 87.6% in 2012.
As in 2011, Gauteng and the Western Cape again scored the highest with 98.1% and 94.2% respectively in 2012. Mpumalanga once again had the lowest score of 60.9%, which was, however, an improvement on its 2011 score of 56.5%.
Overall, each of the nine provinces exhibited increases in their 2012 Blue Drop assessment results as compared to 2011, which had not been the case the previous year. The North West province showed the most improvement from 62.3% in 2011 to 78.7% in 2012.
The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) on Monday evening honoured the municipalities that achieved excellence in the management of drinking water quality.
Out of the 931 water systems within the 153 municipalities audited, a total of 98 systems obtained Blue Drop Certification for the 2012 reporting cycle and were acknowledged during the awards ceremony.
In order to receive a Blue Drop award a water system must have scored 95% or higher when assessed against the Blue Drop requirements, which look not only at drinking water quality compliance, but also the overall management of the drinking water system.
The top performing Blue Drop certified system was Tshwane Central and South having achieved a Blue Drop score of 99.20%, with Nelspruit following second (99.15%) and Ekurhuleni third (98.95%).
As in 2011, where 66 Blue Drop awards were given, the trend of municipalities making use of water boards to manage their drinking water systems continued, and these entities dominated the awards with Rand Water being involved in management of four of the top ten 2012 Blue Drop certified systems.
The top performing overall municipality in the 2012 Blue Drop results was Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality with a score of 98.95%. The City of Johannesburg dropped from the top spot in 2011 to place second in 2012 with a score of 98.92%.
Mogale City local municipality (98.79%), Ethekwini metropolitan municipality (98.77%), Tlokwe local municipality (98.45%), and the City of Cape Town (98.14%) followed in positions three to six.
The poorest performing municipality was Kou-kamma local municipality, in the Eastern Cape, with a Blue Drop score of 5.60%, below even its 2011 score of 14.36%. All 10 water systems within this municipality were noted as being in a “critical state” and requiring “urgent attention” according to the Blue Drop report (any score of 33% or lower fell into this category). The municipality included the towns of Sanddrif, Stormsrivier and Joubertina among others.
“Communities have been informed not to drink the tap water without improving the quality first by either boiling or using other methods of purification. We are working closely with these municipalities to bring the water quality up to standard,” said Molewa of Kou-kamma and the Ikwezi local municipality (also in the Eastern Cape), which had a Blue Drop score of 7.91%.
The two municipalities that showed the sharpest decline where Thaba Chweu local municipality dropping from 59.40% in 2011 to 19.03% in 2012 and Nkomazi local municipality, dropping from 59.48% in 2011 to 17.2% in 2012.
However, some municipalities that had previously performed poorly were able to show a significant improvement, with the Victor Kanye local municipality, in Mpumalanga, improving on its 2011 Blue Drop score of 18.26% to achieve 80.07% in 2012 and thus moving from 139 to 56 on the national Blue Drop log. The Thembisile local municipality, also in Mpumalanga, achieved 78.30% in 2012 after a 2011 score of 27.77%, moving from 129 to 59 on the log.
“This is indicative of the fact that if municipalities work harder, if they follow where advice is given and where support is given, that is how their performance will improve,” said Molewa.
The Blue Drop scores were determined based on assessments conducted by a panel of drinking water professionals of five key areas of a municipality drinking water system. These areas were water safety planning, drinking water quality process management and control, drinking water quality compliance, management accountability and local regulation, and asset management. Assessing all these areas ensured that not only drinking water quality compliance was taken into account, but also the overall management of the drinking water supply and control of risk to the water quality was considered.
“The first Blue Drop report of 2009 indicated that the national microbiological compliance for South African tap water was measured at 93.3% against the National Standard [SANS 241]. Notably this has increased to 97.3% in the 2012 report cycle. The overall national drinking water compliance figure is recorded at 98.93% (based on microbiological, chemical, physical and organoleptic data),” said Molewa.