Expert: Poor infrastructure, maintenance to blame for water supply crisis

Residents in parts of the North West have been met with regular water cuts and sub-standard water coming out of their taps but the crisis is not limited to that province.

FILE: Gundo Maswime is a lecturer in the University of Cape Town’s civil engineering department, and he said poor maintenance of aging infrastructure was to blame. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - An infrastructure expert said while corruption and incompetence at municipalities contributed to the failure to provide access to water, the crisis in most communities was far bigger than that.

Residents in parts of the North West have been met with regular water cuts and sub-standard water coming out of their taps but the crisis is not limited to that province.

Gundo Maswime is a lecturer in the University of Cape Town’s civil engineering department, and he said poor maintenance of aging infrastructure was to blame.

Maswime said the backlog in the maintenance of water infrastructure at municipalities was so high, they simply could not afford to meaningfully address it.

“Most of them go into the billions just to put the infrastructure in a state where it will be acceptable – so hardly any municipality can afford to maintain their water infrastructure.”

He said the focus should be on resolving problems that would outlive the corruption and incompetence problems.

“Funding has to come in; institutional arrangement because some municipalities do not have the legislative mandate to deal with water infrastructure.”

Maswime said at the current rate, South Africa’s water woes would worsen before they got better.