Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane has directed her department to review its free water provision policy for indigent households, as the burden on subsidised state services piles up and funds for delivery become scarce.

The department is expected to review the policy which allows for 25 free litres of water per household per person for the first time since the policy’s inception, as outlined in the Water Services Act of 1997.

Apart from SA already being a water-scarce country, it is still reeling from the effects of the 2015-16 drought. The department itself is battling to get to grips with the loss of money from project delays.

Speaking to Parliament’s portfolio committee on water and sanitation on Tuesday, deputy director-general for policy and research Anil Singh said the growth of the country’s population and dwindling resources meant that the Department of Water and Sanitation had to reassess the policy.

Also briefing the committee, Statistics SA director-general for population and social statistics Kefiloe Masiteng said the number of households that had access to a functional water service was poised to increase from 85% in 2013 to 90% in 2017. But there still were areas where households lived further than 500m from their water source. Among SA’s eight metropolitan municipalities only 54.3% of households paid for municipal water, she said.

Municipal IQ economist Karen Heese said the sustainability of free water provision in the long term would depend on the funding it would get.

"I think it would be very difficult to reduce this from a constitutional perspective. There has been pressure for this to be increased, so one can’t really foresee how it would be decreased. On the ground, of course, any changes would impact only those communities receiving free basic water."

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