Cape Town - Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Sonjica has given tap water in all 2010 FIFA World Cup host cities a clean bill of health.
Releasing the 2010 Host Cities Drinking Water Quality Management Audit Report on Wednesday, Sonjica said the world can rest assured that tap water in all host cities is safe to drink.
The audit used the Blue Drop Certification System, an incentive-based regulation system which the department introduced in September 2008 to rate municipalities across the country.
All of the host cities scored 95 percent under the certification system and were awarded Blue Drop Status.
Johannesburg (98.39 percent) and Cape Town (98.18 percent) got the highest scores, while Rustenburg (95.1 percent), Port Elizabeth (95.08 percent) and Bloemfontein (95.05 percent) ranked the lowest.
The certification system looks at, among other things, water safety planning, submission of credible information, asset management and incident management.
Ahead of the audit, a core group of Blue Drop assessors visited the UK's Drinking Water Inspectorate in October last year and the inspectorate also provided training for the assessors.
Over the last six months the country's overall South African drinking water quality was measured as 96 percent, an improvement over the 2009 Blue Drop Report when the country's towns and municipalities scored on average 93.3 percent.
Sonjica pointed out that relative to other countries, South Africa still had safe tape water.
"You go to other countries and at the hotels there's a tag that's there - don't drink from the taps. We've never had that," said Sonjica, adding that South Africa had also had very few outbreaks of waterborne diseases.
However, she said this didn't mean one had to be complacent as the quality of water was constantly under threat by an increasing population, dilapidated infrastructure and pollution.
She said the department issued directives to those municipalities where the supply of water had become unsafe.
These directives would be followed up by "strict monitoring" of the municipalities in question, but the department would also offer assistance to those towns that needed to improve their water standards.
Sonjica said South Africa was a water-scarce country and that a tariff increase may be "unavoidable", but she added that at this point an increase was not on the cards.
She said the department was still working on its tariff policy and until it had been completed a decision could not yet be made.
"But even if we get to that point we would look at a rising tariff as we have today, with a provision to cushion the poorest," she said, adding that the free basic provision of water would remain.
The Blue Drop Report for 2010 will be released later this year. To see the Blue Drop status of municipalities across the country, visit www.dwa.gov.za/bluedrop.
The webpage on the department's website allows one to search for various towns' water quality scores and where water samples are taken using Google Maps