Find Water and Sanitation expertise in South Africa

Approximately 91 per cent of South Africa’s population had access to an improved water source in 2010 (UNICEF). In urban areas the figure was 99 per cent, and in rural areas the figure was 79 per cent.

In the same year, 79 per cent of people in South Africa had access to improved sanitation facilities. In urban areas the figure was 86 per cent, and in rural areas it was 67 per cent. In 2010 two per cent of people living in urban areas practised open defecation, compared to 17 per cent of people in rural areas. While in 2010 approximately 7 per cent of people in South Africa practised open defecation, in 2000 10 per cent of people did.

South Africa is an arid country with less than 10 per cent of rainfall available as surface water. There is considerable temporal and geographical variation; the mean annual runoff is substantially higher in the eastern regions of South Africa compared to the west. The country’s groundwater resources are small in comparison to world averages. South Africa’s water difficulties, current and potential, are exacerbated by acid water flowing from mines.

According to South Africa’s constitution every person has the right to clean water for domestic purposes. The Water Act of 1998 determines that all water use, except for reasonable domestic use, home garden use and stock water requirements, must be licensed. The previous distinction between public and private water was eliminated and the public trust doctrine was statutorily incorporated.

The system for providing water in South Africa is complex, comprising government policy makers, Water Boards, and local municipalities.

The Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry is the water services sector leader and the national regulator. The Ministry, via the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), observes surface water and groundwater resources, devises the national water strategy and has responsibility for the implementation of the Water Act.

Water Boards are institutions which have as their primary activity the provision of water services (bulk and reticulation) to other water services institutions. Municipalities are also involved in the provision of retail services and also own some of the bulk supply infrastructure. The Municipal Structures Act of 2000 allocates the responsibility for water services to the District Municipality or the local municipality if authorised by the minister of provincial and local government.

According to an independent study in 2007, the operational revenues of water provision cover less than 80 per cent of the operating costs. A ratio below 100 per cent implies that operating costs are not covered and therefore the water system is not financially sustainable.

Water privatisation in South Africa is a controversial issue. In 1999, the Siza Water Company (SWC) entered into a contract whereby SWC would oversee, manage and implement the provision of water and sanitation services within the then BODC Municipal boundary. It thus became the first private company to manage a water and wastewater utility in South Africa. The Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP) was formed in late 2003. In 2002 a free basic water policy was enacted, which encouraged authorities to structure their charges for water to provide the first 6,000 litres per household per month free of charge.

The Community Water Supply and Sanitation (CWSS) Programme was established to extend access to basic water supply and sanitation services to all people resident in South Africa.

In 2011 South Africa’s bottled water industry grew by 4.2 per cent while directly employing approximately 1 800 people. There are over 80 bottlers of natural water in South Africa, though an average sized European bottler produces as much as South Africa’s entire bottled water industry. Two of the biggest markets for bottled water are Gauteng and Cape Town. Very few companies distribute on a national basis; the other plants supply reasonably small regions (South African National Bottled Water Association – SANBWA). SANBWA is a voluntary association of bottlers, and was formed in 1997 as a standards setting and representative body for the industry.

Water and Sanitation organisations in South Africa
Canoeing South Africa
Chess South Africa
Department of Water Affairs
Rand Water
South African Bridge Federation