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Sewage overflow into rivers worsening - 28 February 2008

Sewage from scores of badly-run municipal treatment works is spilling into rivers across the country every day, raising fears about further outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

Based on a government sample study of more than 50 small-to-medium-size municipal sewage works across the country, hundreds of these works across the country appear to be suffering significant management problems.

While the performance of most large city sewage works is not seen as a major concern, the majority of treatment works in smaller towns and district municipalities do not have enough skilled staff to control frequent overflows of raw sewage or discharges of poorly-treated water.

Tap water in the big cities remains among the safest in the world, but the quality of drinking-water in many small towns has been described as "unacceptably poor" by local water engineers who will be presenting research findings at a conference in Spain next month.

'Money 'saved' on management of assets is not a saving' Another major problem identified in research is the waste of millions of litres of clean drinking water as a result of leaks in municipal pipes or in poorly-maintained household toilets and taps.

One of the worst examples was Sebokeng township, where up to 80 percent of the municipal water supply was found to be leaking away.

Earlier this month Water Affairs Minister Lindiwe Hendricks emphatically denied suggestions that the country was facing a water distribution "crisis" similar to the Eskom electricity collapse.

Nevertheless, some of the country's most prominent engineers and senior officials in her department have been warning about the urgent need to prevent poorly-maintained municipal water infrastructure from falling apart because of neglect and short-sighted cost-saving.

. . . read the remainder of this article here on IOL