Massive water wastage by ECape's three biggest municipalities, backlogs run into millions

SEPTEMBER 2, 2015

There is massive water wastage in the Eastern Cape’s three biggest municipalities, which also have water infrastructure maintenance backlogs running into hundreds of millions of Rands, a reply to a written question by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to the Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance, Fikile Xasa, has revealed.

The Nelson Mandela Bay, where President Jacob Zuma launched the War on Leaks programme last Friday, lost 36% of its freshwater in the 2013-2014 year, while the Buffalo City Municipality lost 33% in the 2014-2015 year and the King Sabata Dalinyebo lost 25% in the same period.

To put these into perspective, in July, leading water scientists from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) announced that it was no longer debatable that South Africa is experiencing a water crisis as the country was already battling to supply enough water of sufficient quality to meet its social and economic needs.

According to the reply, the current maintenance backlog for water infrastructure was R260 million in Nelson Mandela Bay; R490 million in Buffalo City Municipality and R300 million in King Sabata Dalinyebo.

However, the reply showed that, for this financial year, only R126 million has been budgeted for maintenance and repairs in Nelson Mandela Bay; R40 million in Buffalo City Municipality and R16 million in King Sabata Dalinyebo.

According to Bobby Stevenson, the DA's Shadow MEC for Finance, communities were getting angry with the wastage, the leaking pipes, the poor quality of water and the lack of regular supply. 

"Recently, areas of Mthatha were without water for over a week and the Bhisho legislature was without water for two days last week.  Residents of Despatch in Nelson Mandela Bay have also recently been victims, as has Cradock, Grahamstown and other parts of the province. Who’s next?" he said in a statement.

"We need to fix the underlying problem so thousands of real jobs can be created by having functional municipalities that attract investment.  This means putting much needed funds into infrastructure maintenance and development."

According to government figures, South Africa loses about 37% of its fresh water every year through leaking taps and pipes as well as illegal connections, which amounts to about R7 billion a year.