Outa calls on Human Rights Commission to investigate drinking water challenges

20th March 2017 By: Anine Kilian - Contributing Editor Online

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission, calling for an investigation into maladministration within the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), which threatens drinking water supply and quality in South Africa.

According to Outa, water management is deteriorating yearly and the root cause of the problem is a lack of monitoring and enforcement by government.

“Having access to sufficient healthy water is a basic human right as written in our Constitution. The people of South Africa should feel confident that their water quality and supply is able to support population and economic growth,” Outa water and environment portfolio director Julius Kleynhans said in a statement on Monday.

Outa’s complaint also focuses on human rights violations related to excessive pollution by municipal sewage being discharged into rivers and dams, which it says is well above acceptable levels.

“Most drinking water supplied by municipalities to citizens is from rivers and dams. If a municipality fails to adequately treat sewage, water users and municipalities downstream may be affected by the contaminated water,” Kleynhans added.

According to the most recent data from the DWS’s 2014 Blue Drop report, 76% of municipal drinking water systems fail to comply with drinking water quality standards in terms of chemical compliance and 20% in terms of microbiological compliance.

“The data also points out that 93% of our wastewater treatment systems do not comply to discharge standards, according to the 2013 Green Drop report.”

Current figures on the DWS website indicate that in March 2017, 3.7-million litres of wastewater is discharged every day, effectively polluting rivers and drinking water supplies, placing the health of millions of South Africans at risk.