DWS, Salga, Cogta to review water service delivery mechanisms in municipalities

5th February 2024 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), the Department of Corporative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and the South African Local Government Association (Salga) are establishing a coordinated task team to review service delivery mechanisms for water and sanitation services.

This is one of the resolutions adopted during a recent DWS-hosted water summit which convened the 144 municipalities that are water services authorities (WSAs).

The task team, set up to initiate and coordinate Municipal Systems Act Section 78 processes in certain municipalities, aims to address declining water and sanitation services as outlined in the latest Blue, Green and No Drop reports, with focus on the 105 municipalities that are in the critical and poor performing categories in terms of the Blue and Green Drop reports.

Despite extensive support provided by DWS, Cogta, the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency, the Department of Human Settlements and National Treasury to assist WSAs with the provision of water and sanitation services, the Drop reports indicate that municipal water services have declined sharply, the DWS said in a statement on Monday.

This indicates that there are limitations on the extent to which problems can be solved through support from the national government – which includes R20-billion a year in water and sanitation infrastructure grants; technical and engineering support and assistance; capacity building and training; and financial management advice and support – and that more fundamental reforms are required.

For example, routine maintenance and operations must be funded by revenue from the sale of water by municipalities to customers, and municipal councils must take the required decisions to prioritise budgets for this.

The Water Services Act states that WSAs can approve any legal entity to function as a water service provider (WSP) in the municipality; however, the WSA and WSP functions are required to be managed and accounted for separately by municipalities, but this is generally not happening.

The Act also states that the key role of the WSA is to ensure that the WSP provides services which meet minimum norms and standards, and this is also generally not happening, as seen in the Drop assessment outcomes.

Other key decisions taken at the Summit include that all WSAs must develop action plans to address their Drop results and submit these to DWS by the end of February 2024, that training institutions should prioritise the training of uncertified process controllers to enable them to become certified, and that all WSAs must issue advisory notices without fail when their drinking water fails to meet microbiological water standards.