Hazyview - Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, says poor infrastructure and a lack of skills at local municipalities can be blamed for the cholera outbreak in the province.
"The cholera outbreak in Bushbuckridge and some parts of Mbombela local municipality in December 2008 was a case of lack of capacity to ensure total water management. This had disastrous consequences in which 30 people lost their lives," Sonjica told delegates at a Water Indaba, on Wednesday.
She said although there had been progress in providing people with water and sanitation services in Mpumalanga, 1.6 million of the province's residents still had no access to potable water and 2.6 million had no access to sanitation services.
Water purification also remains a big challenge, she said.
"Our plans and high quality infrastructure will be of no benefit if good management of operations is not practised to ensure reliable, effective and efficient service to avoid dry taps, blocked toilets and polluted rivers," she said.
The minister acknowledged that, with the province's mining developments, the region had "its own unique problems that threaten the sustainability of water resources".
She said her department was committed to attending to the allocation of water and to the development needs of small farmers who were denied opportunities in the past.
Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza said the provincial government will hold a summit next month, together with the Minister of Mining, Dipuo Peters, and relevant organisations to tackle the challenges of water pollution in areas such as Standerton and Ermelo.
"This summit will discuss the water quality challenges faced by farmers and mines in the Highveld region of the province," said Mabuza.
He warned that unlicensed mines in those areas would be closed down and those found polluting rivers would get heavier fines than in the past.
Mpumalanga had problems with unlicensed mines and a speedy solution is needed before wetlands runs dry and mine run-off raises the acidity levels of rivers.
Sonjica said her department was working closely with the police and justice system to address water crimes.
She warned that offenders would be named and shamed during the department's Enforcement and Compliance Week in November.
The department is conducting water indabas countrywide in order to come up with an integrated approach towards service delivery.