Seventy-one per cent of wastewater treatment facilities in South Africa are noncompliant and discharge more than four-billion litres of toxic wastewater into South Africa’s water resources every day, an investigation by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has revealed.
The organisation on Wednesday – World Water Day – said this not only threatened the quality of drinking water, food security and public health, but was a violation of the public’s constitutional right to access to clean drinking water and a healthy environment.
Outa had in January requested that the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) provide the complete Green Drop Report of 2015 to determine the extent to which municipalities have failed to comply with legislative requirements.
“The DWS could not supply the report, citing a lack of human and financial resources. This is alarming, as the department is the custodian and regulator for all water affairs in South Africa and is obligated to ensure compliance,” said Outa water and environment portfolio director Julius Kleynhans.
Outa has since investigated the matter and according to the Auditor-General’s annual report for 2015/16, the DWS left around R2-billion of its yearly budget unspent.
Further, Outa noted that according to the DWS website, only 26% of all municipal wastewater treatment plants in South Africa have submitted wastewater quality data between February and March.
Over the last 12 months, 77% of wastewater discharged does not comply with microbiological waste discharge standards, it noted.
“We want government to thrive, but we are concerned about the state of water affairs and the lack of accountability. Should Outa not obtain the appropriate relief from the South African Human Rights Commission, we will consider approaching the Constitutional Court,” added Kleynhans.