South African Government

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Water and Sanitation on efforts to explore the use of groundwater to ensure water security in South Africa

20 Mar 2022

To commemorate World Water Day, the Department of Water and Sanitation has committed to enhance its efforts to explore the use of groundwater as an alternative water source to ensure water security in communities affected by water supply challenges. This comes as the global community observes World Water Day on 22 March 2022, themed: “Groundwater
– making the invisible, visible.”

According to the Department, more than 50% of available groundwater is being utilized in five Water Management Areas (WMAs) across the country, with the highest utilisation happening in Limpopo. 

“It is important to note that the capital city of the North West Province, Mahikeng, is mainly reliant on groundwater sourced from dolomite aquifer from east of the city,” said Zacharia Maswuma, Director for Surface and Groundwater Information in the Department. 

Maswuma  added that the City of Cape Town is investigating the groundwater potential from the deep aquifers of the Table Mountain Group sandstones, meanwhile there is also ongoing research conducted in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape to explore the use of the resource. 

The Department said groundwater is acknowledged as a national asset and an integral part of South Africa’s water resources which has helped to reduce the backlog for domestic water supply in different parts of the country. 

As key sector role players across the globe commemorate World Water Day, the Department of Water and Sanitation has sent a stern warning to civil society and business to prevent and stop the pollution of groundwater as the results cripple efforts made by government towards the provision of water for all. 

“Groundwater contamination occurs when manmade products such as petrol, oil and other harmful substances get into groundwater supplies and cause it to become unsafe and unfit for human use. Sources of groundwater contamination include septic systems, waste sites and pesticides, amongst other things,” he said. 

Deteriorating groundwater quality may have severe health impacts on health and livelihoods in communities using polluted groundwater without treatment. 

Maswuma gave an assurance that the Department will not hesitate to take strict measures against those who pollute the resource. 

Measures taken come in a form of legislative instruments by means of issuing of noncompliance directives to transgressors and Water Use Authorisations in order to track water users provided with the authority to explore groundwater use. 

“The National Water Act provides principles within which pollution of water resources, including groundwater, are to be addressed, what we do as a department is that we monitor legacy contamination sources such as old slimes dams, discard dumps and buried asbestos which remain as potential sources of groundwater pollution,” said Maswuma. 

The monitoring of groundwater pollution is done collaboratively with several other government departments such as the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy as well as the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, alongside private partnerships. 

The Department said many of South Africa’s indigenous communities rely on groundwater for their survival, while many towns, approximately 320 towns, also depend on groundwater as a sole source of supply in conjunction with surface water.  It also expressed that the protection of the resource is significant to help achieve equitable water for all by 2030 and beyond. 

World Water Day is an initiative spearheaded by the United Nations, using the day as a basis for longer-term action involving governments across the globe. To raise the profile of the significance of the day, the Department commemorates National Water Week from 21-27 March through awareness and advocacy activities. 

For more information, contact Sputnik Ratau, Spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation on 082 874 2942 

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