Sonjica warns against illegal water connections

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pretoria - Environmental and Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica has warned that government will crack down on people who make use of illegal water connections.

"We are strengthening our regulatory focus, and I must warn everyone that we are not going to stand by and observe individuals and institutions pollute our rivers and in some cases 'steal' the limited water resources we have," said the minister on Monday.

She said that government would act decisively to ensure South Africa's water resources are protected and legally utilised for the benefit of all.

Sonjica was speaking at the two-day Cape Town Water Summit, which brings together stakeholders from the department, the Premier's Office, City of Cape Town, Overberg Water Board and the South African Local Government Association among others.

The department is conducting water indabas countrywide in order to come up with an integrated approach towards service delivery in the provinces while ironing out challenges raised.

Sonjica said climate change, poor waste management and water wastage would continue to threaten the country's water supply unless all levels of government and other stakeholders formulated plans for saving water.

She said water must be allocated equitably across the different water use sectors.

"Water allocation must be balanced and informed by our country's development agenda, which amongst others calls for redress and empowerment of the historically marginalised. "

She told the summit that climate change, with a forecast reduction in rainfall, remained a huge concern for government. "I am acutely aware of the increase in drought in the provinces, as well as unusual rainfall patterns as if it is winter again."

Climate change will impact future availability of water and therefore government is giving emphasis to both mitigation and adaptation strategies, said the minister.

Further to these challenges, Sonjica said ageing water infrastructure would have to be dealt with, as would the prevailing shortage of skills at all three spheres of government.

Sonjica announced that Knysna would soon have a desalination plant up and running by mid-December this year. This was commended as a sterling example of improving water security in the face of the drought.

The department has already conducted indabas in Limpopo, North West, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.