Water Quality and Security: public hearings

Water and Sanitation

20 June 2006
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY
21 June 2006
WATER QUALITY AND SECURITY: PUBLIC HEARINGS

Chairperson: Ms CC September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
City of Cape Town Status Report (CCT)
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA)
Rand Water (RW) presentation
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) presentation
Agricultural Research Council (ARC) presentation
Water Quality and Agricultural Water Use in South Africa
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa: Western Cape

SUMMARY

The Committee continued with public hearings on water quality and water security.

Rand Water reported on its current activities and scope, and its commitment and contribution to water provision. It summarised the customer expectations and how it met them, the water safety plans and the criteria set. The supply chain was tabled and explained in detail.  The reticulation processes and elements of their support programme were fully set out.

City of Cape Town summarised the water qualification processes and challenges. The reticulation, wastewater and storm water and catchment management programmes were detailed. CCT’s water quality was high and management was committed to reaching ISO standards. CCT aimed to prioritise challenges, ensure correct budgeting, carry out continuous programmes, retain skilled staff and align to water sector plans.

WESSA recommended that the Department o Water Affairs should ensure departments and suppliers should comply with all legislation, that data should be correlated, that a water pollution tax be levied and that a compliance body be established. They recommended further research into climate change. They pointed out that municipalities needed better controls and assistance, and suggested changes to tariffs. Further recommendations were tabled as to areas that could be addressed by DWAF

DEAT summarised the scope and effect of biodiversity activities and recommended integrated plans. DEAT current focus activities were summarised.  The management of coastal water programmes was a priority.

ARC focused on water quality and agricultural water use. It tabled its current research and projects, including a project on food security. Challenges included soil salinity, loss of natural biodiversity, and discharges from mining and agriculture. It recommended research into water quality, interlinking of soil, crop and water waters, the development of monitoring tools and a monitoring network.

 MINUTES
Rand Water submission

Mr Chris Viljoen (Manager, Water Quality and Environment, Rand Water) explained that Rand Water had a quality commitment on water, to meet customer expectations that water supply be uninterrupted, be supplied whenever and wherever needed, at a reasonable cost, and that the quality must be acceptable. He explained how quality assurance and control affected the business continuity plans, and summarised the water safety plans. Water Quality service plans included a number of elements, and required investigation and implementation of limits, protocols, monitoring programmes, and corrective action. Rand Water believed that it must manage from catchment right through to point of delivery, using the SANS 241 criteria, which were based on international World Health Organisation standards.

Mr Viljoen summarised the supply chain, requiring resource protection, water purification, bulk distribution and resource protection. He explained each stage in depth. Five key components were commitment to water quality, supply chain evaluation, monitoring, management plans and independent audit. He tabled the verification processes within Rand Water and external to it, and the various elements of their support programme. He tabled examples of the website, and summarised the reporting areas covered. 

Discussion
Ms J Semple (DA) asked if Rand Water had a strategy in place to monitor the water they supplied to municipalities.

Mr C Viljoen (Rand Water) explained that Rand Water had a close association with all councils it supplied. Further, Rand Water had a “tap water programme” by which it sampled water at the consumers’ taps. He pointed out that these samples helped Rand Water to monitor the water they supplied to municipalities. 

Ms Semple wondered how many times a week or month independent monitoring at Rand Water took place.

Mr Viljoen replied that the independent monitoring took place on a monthly basis. He said the reason for independent monitoring was to verify Rand Water’s monthly findings.

Ms Semple asked how often the SANS 241 (SA National Standard) changed.

Mr Viljoen pointed out that the SANS 241 was in its sixth edition, and that meant there had been six revisions in a period of about 20 years. He explained that SANS changed due to international research developments.

City of Cape Town submission
Ms Mpharu Hloyi (Scientific Services Manager, City of Cape Town (CCT)) summarised the water quality process followed in CCT. The entire water quality value chain was currently measured at Scientific Services based in Athlone. There were 11 treatment works with a monitoring programme taking 64 844 per year. She summarised the challenges as deteriorating quality from abstraction, algae proliferation from dams, the addition of powdered activated carbon and the necessity for uniformity on interpretation of SANS 241 compliance. The monitoring processes were explained. Reticulation and wastewater programmes and challenges were summarised and explained. Both faced ageing infrastructure, and minimalisation of water pollution strategy and enforcement. Wastewater was compounded by rapid population growth, and sewer and reticulation growth, together with spill over from over flows. Catchment, storm-water and river management services were also detailed.  Challenges in this area include identifying the sources of pollution, rehabilitation of the ecosystem, ensuring effective management, involving communities and managing flood risks.

Highly trained personnel ran the internal management process, and the data was currently been replaced and would be live in March 2007. CCT’s drinking water quality had consistently been rated top in the inter-laboratory comparison run by SABS. Management was fully committed to reach ISO 17025 accreditation. Volunteers had been included in grey water projects. Information dissemination had improved, and health and education plans included workshops in informal settlements, and projects on water quality.  CCT needed to prioritise and address all challenges of water quality, ensure adequate budgets, carry out continuous programmes, develop strategies to retain skilled staff and ensure alignment to a water sector plan. 

Discussion
Mr JD Arendse (ANC) asked if CCT could submit an explanation about the cause of the maggots that were reported in tap water.

Ms Hloyi explained that it was impossible for maggots to survive in the water systems that the city used. She pointed out that the water pipes that the city used to channel water had a pressure of 9 bars and that on its own would kill any maggots in the water. She added that maggots were harmless and did not carry disease.

Ms Semple asked the City of Cape Town to clarify if they had 96 percent or 98 percent compliance with the SANS 241.

Ms Hloyi explained that the SANS 241 required an average of 95 percent compliance. She added that the city operated according to those guidelines.

The Chairperson pointed out that there was a recent, damning report on the state of rivers in the Western Cape. She asked if the City of Cape Town had any mechanisms in place to address the issue.

Ms Hloyi pointed out that the city was dealing with the problem of grey water in informal settlements around Cape Town. She explained that the city had budgeted for a grey water project, a programme that was scheduled to begin on 1 July 2006.

The Chairperson pointed out that the City of Cape Town’s backlogs in sanitation were causing a number of problems. She asked if the city had mechanisms in place to address the issue.

Ms Hloyi explained that currently the city’s sewerage treatment works were overloaded. She added that the challenge was to strike a balance between population and housing demands. She pointed out that she did not have a definitive answer to this challenge.

Discussion
Mr JD Arendse (ANC) asked if the City of Cape Town(CCT) could submit an explanation about the cause of the maggots that were reported in tap water.

Ms M Hloyi (CCT) explained that it was impossible for maggots to survive in the water systems that the city used. She pointed out that the water pipes that the city used to channel water had a pressure of 9 bars and that on its own would kill any maggots in the water. She added that maggots were harmless and did not carry disease.

Ms Semple asked the City of Cape Town to clarify if they had 96 percent or 98 percent compliance with the SANS 241.

Mr Hloyi explained that the SANS 241 required an average of 95 percent compliance. She added that the city operated according to those guidelines.

The Chairperson pointed out that there was a recent, damning report on the state of rivers in the Western Cape. She asked if the City of Cape Town had any mechanisms in place to address the issue.

Ms Hloyi pointed out that the city was dealing with the problem of grey water in informal settlements around Cape Town. She explained that the city had budgeted for a grey water project, a programme that was scheduled to begin on 1 July 2006.

The Chairperson pointed out that the City of Cape Town’s backlogs in sanitation were causing a number of problems. She asked if the city had mechanisms in place to address the issue.

Ms Hloyi explained that currently the city’s sewerage treatment works were overloaded. She added that the challenge was to strike a balance between population and housing demands. She pointed out that she did not have a definitive answer to this challenge.

Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) Submission
Mr Patrick Dowling (Senior Environmentalist, WESSA) pointed out that 80% of rivers in South Africa were threatened, and 20% were already in a critical state. Ecological reserves were often not respected, demand management took precedence over supply solutions, development was still permitted where water resources were scarce, wetlands were inadequately protected and managed, and industry, mining and agriculture were permitted to continue operations which caused pollution and riverine degradation.  The deterioration of water systems threatened society and its health.

WESSA recommended that DWAF should ensure departmental and cross-sector compliance with all legislation.  There was already substantial data, although climate change needed some further research, and WESSA therefore believed that all data should be correlated and integrated. They recommended the levying of a water pollution tax to enable a robust inter-provincial monitoring and compliance body to be established, and a review of climate change research. In order to meet the challenge of promoting socio-economic development, while maintaining fit water quality, WESSA recommended that good ecological functioning of aquatic ecosystems should be a primary concern, and that conservation, demand management, rehabilitation and good practices be integrated and managed properly.

WESSA was concerned that much drinking water became polluted before being stored in the dams, and that municipalities were often at fault. Here WESSA recommended high-end tariffs to discourage wasteful water-use, the setting of minimum compliance standards, and a target date for implementation of the standard, for municipal waste and landfill sites, support by DWAF of the 2020 zero-waste programme, registration of all boreholes and wells and clear cooperation with the Department of Agriculture on farming threats.

In order to ensure sufficient water for social and economic development WESSA believed that DWAF should develop a national media strategy, seek out and support existing voluntary projects, support small resource supply and management units, particularly in the rural areas, critically examine any proposals for privatisation of water, and recognise that large dams were not sustainable nor desirable. Further projects should include support to clearing invasive alien vegetation, better education and better and more detailed planning, with DWAF persuading Municipalities to include climate change and water conservation in their plans.

Discussion
Ms S Maine (ANC) asked WESSA to explain what they had done with their recommendations. She wondered if the organisation had engaged with municipalities or government departments regarding their recommendations.

Mr P Dowling explained that their recommendations affected various sectors and departments. He pointed out that there were a variety of approaches in implementing the recommendations. One of those approaches included inviting different departments that were affected by their recommendations and to brainstorm with those departments. He added that the brainstorming would presumably result in some sort of policy or regulation being developed

Department of Environment and Tourism (DEAT) Submission
Ms Wilma Lutch (Acting Director, Biodiversity Conservation, DEAT) summarised the scope and effects of the Biodiversity Act. The goal of the national biodiversity strategy and action plan was to conserve and manage terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity, to ensure sustainable and equitable benefits to South Africans. An integrated plan would minimise the effects of various processes that threatened biodiversity, enhance ecosystems and improve social and economic security.

A recent national spatial biodiversity assessment had shown that 80% of rivers and 65% of marine biozones were threatened. DEAT aimed to establish a common conservation goal for inland water biodiversity, and the five objectives were tabled and explained. DEAT was focussing on wetlands, with a project covering 17 existing and 2 further proposed sites. A national wetland inventory was being drawn and extensive rehabilitation was being undertaken in rural areas. Since 80% of marine pollution emanated from the land, it was necessary for all departments to collaborate to ensure that a national programme of action was drawn, and to manage a national coastal water monitoring programme.

Discussion
Ms Semple asked DEAT if they felt existing legislation was sufficient to ensure the maintenance of water quality.

Ms Lutch pointed out that there was good legislation in place; but the problem lay in implementation.

The Chairperson asked to what extent DEAT’s agenda included a water resources strategy.

Ms Lutch explained that the DEAT agenda was in line with the water resources strategy, for DEAT was part of the process that had developed the water resources strategy.

Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Submission
Mr Thabiso Mudau (ARC) stated that ARC took its mandate from the ARC Act, and reported to the Minister of Agriculture, the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Department of Science and Technology, and the NCOP. It aimed to be a nationally and internationally recognised centre of excellence in agricultural science and innovation, and to promote agriculture through research, technology development and technology transfer, to enhance the national resources and environment, sustain a competitive agricultural economy, provide new opportunities, provide safe and high quality foods, and encourage the growth of society.

There were three institutes supporting ARC research, and one of the focus areas was water quality and agricultural water use. Current research dealt with the effect of different water qualities on crops, the effect of the wetland systems, mining effluent, which had led to concerns about radioactive pollution, analysis of water for agricultural use, the impact of quality of irrigation schemes, and monitoring of water quality on soil and land productivity.

ARC stated that it was obviously vital to re-use water, and ARC was currently running a project on the use of treated winery wastewater and food security for farm workers.

Challenges included soil salinity, loss of natural biodiversity, lack of knowledge, and discharges from mines into river systems.

ARC recommended further research to study water quality, soil/crop/water studies, with the emphasis on development of monitoring tools, and the establishment of countryside quality monitoring networks. Finally, ARC indicated that it worked with the national and provincial departments, farmers, the private sector, universities and other science councils.

Discussion
Ms T Lishivha (ANC) asked what was being done to educate the public about the wastewater re-use programme.

Mr T Mudau (ARC) pointed out that the ARC had invited Members of Parliament to visit the project. He added that the ARC considered this as their starting point. He explained that the ultimate plan was to invite small farmers to visit the project on a regular basis so that they can learn how to use wastewater to their advantage.

The Chairperson thanked the presenters and the Members for attending the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

 

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