We must not neglect water scarcity problem – premier

Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde, at the Water Indaba in Century City last week

Water scarcity in our country is just as important as the electricity crisis, Premier Alan Winde said at the Water Indaba, held at Century City Conference Centre, last week.

The indaba, on Wednesday March 22, was organised by the provincial government and City of Cape Town in recognition of National Water Week, from March 20 to March 26, and if featured more than 30 exhibits on sanitation and water saving.

“It is well documented that South Africa has a water scarcity problem. We cannot afford to neglect this issue. We came dangerously close to Day Zero several years ago. From that close shave with an all-out disaster, we along with our partners learned valuable lessons,” said Mr Winde.

The province, he said, had a 15-year water-response plan that involved various departments spending more on water infrastructure, while, in the short term, the focus would be on responding to drought.

“As catastrophic as the energy crisis is, it has and continues to teach us lessons, namely around thinking ahead, being proactive, taking precautions, and being prepared. From this crisis, we have to draw critical lessons on ensuring we manage a separate but equally important crisis: water scarcity.”

Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the country was spending less on infrastructure than it had 20 years ago.

“As a country, we are spending 28% less on water infrastructure than we did in 2002. So infrastructure investment has dropped by a third. In South African towns, water and road infrastructure is under extreme pressure. We are trying to put that right in Cape Town because we believe that infrastructure is the fundamental job in local government to provide those services for our towns and businesses to thrive,” he said.

The mayor said that the most important thing was to improve quality of life and services for poverty-stricken areas with better access to fresh water, sanitation, electricity and other basic services.

“We have all these huge infrastructure plans to deliver hundreds of millions in extra infrastructure spending per year. The one that excites me the most is our programme to quadruple our investment in sewer and water pipe replacement across the city. These programmes make the world of difference to communities. For example, a R10 million pipe replacement project in a place like Joe Slovo in Milnerton has consequences in improving the quality of life for residents there,” said Mr Hill-Lewis.

Acting mayoral committee member for water and sanitation Siseko Mbandezi said the City had committed to investing more than R11 billion into water and sanitation systems.