Johannesburg - An incentive-based regulation programme which aims to acknowledge municipalities which have excellent drinking water quality management was launched by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry on Monday.
The Blue Drop Certification Programme will see qualifying municipalities receive what will be known as "Blue Drop Status."
This status will signal that the town's drinking water is excellent and consumers will be secure in the knowledge that wastewater is managed and discharged in a sustainable, environmentally-acceptable manner.
The status will reflect the water regulator Water Services Authority's level of confidence in the town's drinking water quality management levels per service system in towns and cities.
Speaking at the launch of the programme, which coincided with the launch of National Water Week, Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks said towns would be able to use the prestigious Blue Drop Status to market themselves to both residents and tourists.
She said assessments had already been completed in various towns and their status would be made known soon.
"The first assessments in all nine provinces were competed and final audits and assessments have commenced to inform the inaugural public report in May/June 2009," Ms Hendricks said.
South Africa's tap water is still ranked the best in the world, she re-assured, adding that recent negative reports in the media about the country's drinking water quality had created panic both from the country's citizens and visitors from abroad.
"South Africa's tap water is still ranked among the best in the world because we have water service systems, which record similar compliance levels as our counterparts in developed countries," the minister said.
She acknowledged that the water might at times not meet the required technical standards, according to it management systems such as electronic water quality management and drinking water quality regulations.
"However, it does not mean the water in the country is not safe for human consumption.
"Regular water quality tests are conducted and on average 3000 samples are taken nationwide from water supply systems for this purpose. Our monthly reporting indicates that 98 percent of all samples taken comply with the health aspects as listed in the South African National Standards," she said.
Minister Hendricks also invited water stakeholders to join the department on its journey to reach greater heights of delivery to guarantee the provision of the right quantity and quality of water to meet the nation's needs.
Water Week is celebrated annually in the month of March with activities to reinforce the culture of conserving and using water sparingly. This year's theme is "Water is life - Securing the nations needs across Generations."
South Africa is among the driest countries in the world and it is important to ensure that the water is protected from pollution and conserved to achieve efficient use.