By Naseerah Nanabhai
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and various stakeholders will observe National Water Week between the 15th and 22nd of March. The key objective of the campaign is to highlight the importance of water and to actively engage stakeholders to find solutions to water challenges facing South Africa.
This year’s theme is ‘valuing water’, and many awareness campaigns are planned to inform citizens about the importance of water conservation. This is aimed at creating awareness on how people value water economically, socially, culturally and the role it plays in their lives.
South Africa faces a scarcity of water supply and this impacts access to clean and safe water. Through various activities, the department seeks to highlight the role of the public to safeguard and protect the country’s limited water resources in order to support the goal of access to adequate and safe water for all.
Safety of drinking water
Before drinking water can be regarded safe, it must meet certain health standards, such as having specific levels of naturally occurring and man-made contaminants. Many people around the world rely on drinking water that does not meet these standards.
Water becomes unsafe to drink for a variety of reasons such as ageing and poorly managed water infrastructure, the introduction of nitrate and phosphate into the water supply, and legacies of industrial pollution.
Inadequate waste water management systems often co-occur with unsafe drinking water. Contamination of drinking water has varying health implications, including birth deformities and certain cancers.
Droughts and Water supply
The drought in parts of the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, the Free State and Limpopo negatively impacts water supply and draws attention towards appreciating water. In a semi-arid country where some communities go without water, the extent to which we value it should serve as a barometer to gauge not only the government’s commitment to providing water but also the public’s obligation to use it with the utmost respect.
Communities that do not have a proper water supply have reduced protection from diseases such as Covid-19. Water is vital for growth and development, therefore the department, in partnership with citizens and civil society organisations, celebrates Water Month by calling on everyone to value water resources by conserving and protecting them.