LATE last year, there was a parliamentary question (4252) in the National Assembly directed to the minister of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Nomvula Mokonyane, for a written reply on whether any of the metropolitan municipalities were currently treating effluent for reuse.
There are six waste water treatment works under metropolitan municipalities treating effluent for reuse and the DWS is unequivocal that the recycling of effluent by municipalities is primary in order to preserve this finite resource.
Water reuse is widely practised throughout the world, in developed, developing and emerging countries. Water Service Authorities (WSAs) in South Africa currently face a challenge with sustainable supply of sufficient quantities of good-quality potable water to the population.
This is mainly due to changing weather patterns, resulting in increased droughts.
As a water-scarce country, we cannot afford not to reuse water. To address water shortages, the DWS and WSAs are increasingly investigating alternative ways of reusing our raw water resources, which include treating waste water and desalinating both brackish and seawater.
In the Northern Cape, among many examples, the Sol Plaatje Municipality, through the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Works (HWWTW), is pumping treated effluent into the so-called Kamfers Dam, which has provided a habitat for the scarce flamingo birdlife which is breeding at this man-made pan, thereby putting treated effluent to good use.
Under the oversight role of the DWS, municipalities are expected to comply with certain standards of water quality.
One of the ways of encouraging municipalities is through the green drop certification processes, which recognise best practice of operation and maintenance of waste water treatment works by municipalities.
Treated effluent is used for various agricultural and livestock activities and is used to beautify our towns and cities by watering parks and gardens, which are recreational facilities.
As the DWS, we continue to monitor businesses that are violating the law by discharging untreated effluent into our rivers and polluting our water resources.
Through education and awareness, we are educating our communities not to vandalise water infrastructure, including waste water treatment works.
We continue to encourage municipalities to upgrade security measures at both waste and water treatment works through proper fencing and placing security guards at access points.
I think it would be best if our water treatment works could be declared national key points.
What if this was the last drop? Reuse your water (grey water), stop polluting our water resources and stop vandalism.
By working together, we can save more water!
Together we move South Africa forward!