“Affirmative action behind water shortages”

By Drum Digital
13 November 2015

Independent researcher and water expert Dr Anthony Turton says water loss in South Africa is costing municipalities around R11 billion a year.

By Ayanda Sitole

He says 37% of water supplied by municipalities is “non-revenue”, which means the water is either lost to leakage or is never billed or paid for.

Turton believes one of the key causes of water loss in South Africa is poor engineering skills at municipal levels

“Much of the reason for the malaise lies in a crippling loss of engineering skills at municipal level. This shortage was highlighted as far back as 2008 in a comprehensive study carried out by the South African Institute of Civil Engineers (SAICE),” he says.

Dr Turton says the skills deficit is directly linked to the ruling party’s insistence on a “rigid” form of racial transformation, calling for a deracialisation in the appointment of employees to technically skilled positions.

“The shortage of engineering skills at third-tier level is an ‘induced’ deficit directly related to the ruling party’s insistence on a rigid form of racial transformation,” he says, “Were it not for this factor, the engineering skills available would suffice to meet present needs.”

He also blames skills shortages for poorly functioning municipal water plants which are currently spewing 4 billion litres of untreated or partially treated sewage in the country’s rivers today.

Dr Turton predicts further deterioration of wastewater treatment plants if transformation policies continue to take precedence, and warns that a major public health crisis is looming.

“The deterioration of wastewater plants is likely to generate a growing burden of disease, especially in poor communities, and an escalating cost for the treatment of potable water from sources contaminated by sewage flows,” he says,

“The relatively small elite which benefits from present transformation policies is likely to object vociferously, but their narrow self-interest cannot continue to be put before the needs of the country as a whole.”

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