Categories: GovernmentNews
| On
2023-12-09 8:31 AM

South Africa’s Looming Water Crisis Sparks Urgent Concern

  • Deteriorating Water Quality: Reports reveal a significant decline in the quality of South Africa's drinking water, with almost half of the water supplies falling below a 50% compliance score. Shockingly, nearly a third of these systems are in critical condition, posing a threat to safe and clean drinking water.
  • Imminent Threat of Scarcity: Experts warn that without immediate action, South Africa could face a severe shortage of drinkable water within the next five years, or potentially even sooner. The accelerated rate of deterioration indicates an impending crisis that demands urgent attention.
  • Urgent Need for Action: The crisis stems from various factors, including a lack of infrastructure maintenance, a shortage of skilled personnel in crucial water treatment positions, and pervasive corruption in government management. Swift and decisive measures are imperative to avert the looming catastrophe and ensure sustainable access to clean drinking water for all South Africans.
By Miriam Matoma

South Africa faces an imminent and concerning threat: the rapid decline of its drinking water quality. Recent reports from the Department of Water and Sanitation have sounded alarm bells, indicating a deteriorating state of the nation’s water sources. The degradation has reached an alarming level, prompting experts to predict a dire scenario where drinkable water might become scarce within the next decade, potentially even within the next five years.

Current Water Quality Assessment

The comprehensive reports unveiled by the Department of Water and Sanitation in 2023 paint a bleak picture. The Blue Drop report, assessing 958 water supply systems across 144 water service authorities, delivered a staggering revelation: almost half of South Africa’s water supplies fall below a 50% compliance score. Shockingly, nearly a third of these systems are in critical condition, threatening the safety and cleanliness of the drinking water.

In terms of water quality, a concerning 46% of water supply systems exhibit poor or bad microbiological water quality compliance. This marks a significant decline from a mere 5% in 2014. Disturbingly, only 26 water supply systems managed to score above 95% and attain the prestigious Blue Drop Certification, emphasizing the severity of the situation.

Moreover, the reports highlighted that an alarming 67.6% of wastewater treatment works are failing, contributing to a substantial loss of 47.4% of the country’s water, which remains unaccounted for.

Expert Warnings and Urgent Calls for Action

Dr. Ferrial Adam, the Executive Manager of WaterCAN, an initiative under OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse), emphasized the gravity of the situation. She highlighted that South Africa is on the brink of a water crisis that could eradicate drinkable water within the next decade or potentially in a much shorter timeframe.

Attributing this crisis to a decade-long neglect in reporting water quality, Dr. Adam stressed the urgency of addressing the factors accelerating the deterioration. She identified several critical issues, including the dire need for infrastructure maintenance, a shortage of skilled personnel in crucial water treatment positions, and the necessity to combat widespread corruption and mismanagement within the government.

Impact on South Africa’s Future

The pace at which South Africa’s water quality is declining is a cause for immediate concern. Dr. Adam warned that if the current rate of deterioration continues unchecked, the country might face a catastrophic shortage of drinkable water within the next five years. She stressed the critical need for urgent action, emphasizing that once a certain threshold of degradation is reached, the decline becomes exponential, accelerating at an alarming rate.

Addressing the Crisis

To avert this impending crisis, swift and decisive measures are imperative. South Africa must prioritize infrastructure maintenance to ensure the proper functioning of water supply and treatment systems. Additionally, investing in skilled professionals and addressing corruption in water management is crucial for the sustainable restoration of water quality.


The concerning decline in South Africa’s water quality demands immediate attention and concerted efforts from both the government and citizens. Failure to act swiftly and decisively will result in a dire scarcity of drinkable water, potentially jeopardizing the health and well-being of the nation. Urgent steps must be taken to reverse this trend and secure a sustainable future where clean and safe drinking water remains accessible to all South Africans.

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Miriam Matoma

Miriam is a freelance writer, she covers economics and government news for Rateweb. You can contact her on: Email: Twitter: @MatomaMiriam

Tags: Water Crisis