South Africa Water Crisis: Back to Basics

water crisis

The ongoing water crisis in South Africa remains a constant concern, and going back to basics might generate a solution. Over the last 20 years, dependable, drinkable water and systems management has declined, causing a steady rise in troubles. Not only is the water crisis a problem, primary care, electricity, health and education services have deteriorated to an appalling state as well.

It is time to go back to basics; having an elementary structure can help alleviate problems and save water. Today, the government uses a high-tech system, a call center and awareness programs. The time management and wasteful loss of water does not provide the attention needed in a speedy manner. Water leaks or bursting pipes often go undetected for up to eight days or longer before any attempt is made to repair or replace them. The time framework for repairs causes a massive loss of water, but if attended to promptly, can make a vast difference.

Years ago, when a pipe burst, the reporting of such an event was taken seriously and most repairs were attended to within eight hours. The lack of response from call center attendants when reporting a leak or burst pipe is considered a waste of time for most people who report an incident. The recorded messages and music the public must listen to before talking to a consultant is ridiculous. More often than not, a good 45 minutes is wasted on a telephone call. When matters are reported over the Internet or by email, the prompt response to the urgency of the problem is also absent.

Ongoing maintenance is not managed effectively and recalling the basic structure would benefit the system. An increased capacity for water would be readily obtainable in dams if only regular maintenance and frequent cleaning of the filth took place. There was a basic structure that worked years ago, forsaken for fraud and corruption.

Corruption is always part of the general organization and in the smaller areas, water shortage is regarded as a normality. Water tankers riding around the streets, selling water to residents are often linked to councilors who are part of the deal to outwit people. Instead of attending to public duties and ensuring repairs and maintenance run uninterrupted, government facilities are used for personal gain.

Johannesburg, the economic hub of the country, is not the only city experiencing a water crisis; there are some towns that have had no water for more than two weeks. It is an ongoing concern and worsens with time. South Africa now has problems comparative to those which Zimbabwe suffers; a consistent and frequent water crisis. Through incompetent officials not conforming to basics, the structure is deteriorating into one that reflects Zimbabwe’s situation.

According to some people, fracking in the Karoo would waste water, and cause more pollution. Others think fracking would be cleaner than coal mining, and say that South Africa has more than enough water in the Karoo. Fracking is a sensitive issue for most, and the concern is partially the water dilemma, the contamination and perhaps how much profit will be accumulated.

Back to basics: refurbish or replace the old structures, employ skilled people and change the call center situation. South Africa had an operating system, a dependable system and no protest over service deliveries. Now South Africa has a high-tech system, double the amount of employees, and daily protests over service deliveries. The water crisis in South Africa will only be resolved when the “back to basics” approach is followed. Of course, as one councilor is ousted and replaced with another, the “blame games” commence, and no accountability is ever considered. Incompetent, unskilled people who depend on corrupt leaders to correct the problems when all it takes is bringing back the simplicity of fundamental, working solutions.

Accountability, skilled workers and time management are not assets anymore; it is the constant cover-up of corruption that gains momentum. The consideration of health implications from not having proper structures to deliver the basic necessity of water is frowned upon. It is the lack of sensitivity that causes South Africa to remain a third world country with no hope of a glimmering future. It seems that no one knows where the skilled workforce is – the loyal and dedicated employees that take pride in their work. By just following basic instructions laid before them, South Africa can avert a water crisis.

Opinion by Laura Oneale

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