The area of water quality is growing in importance as the result of several factors, not least the impact on our fresh water resources caused by dysfunctional waste water treatment works (WWTW) and acid mine drainage. These issues have received dramatic coverage in the media, so there is great public awareness. Moreover, it is generally acknowledged in the South African water sector that every drop polluted is one less drop available for growth and redistribution, as South Africa’s water resources are already fully allocated.
For WWTWs, DWA has responded with the Blue Drop and Green Drop incentive schemes which contain good checklists for improving performance dramatically. Mvula’s Policy Unit has run a Green Drop campaign for the Rietspruit subcatchment forum, in which the forum supported and encouraged the Emfuleni municipality to achieve Green Drop status for its three wastewater treatment works.
The acid mine drainage issue has now received government attention and a framework for a solution is in place. In short, it seems the water can be cleaned up, but membranes are expensive, while precipitation does not deliver high enough quality for Rand Water to buy it. It should be understood that the current problems with acid mine drainage in the gold belt will be dwarfed by the problems that are brewing in the coal areas of Mpumalanga.
Mvula approaches these issues from its basic values of sustainability and strengthening the role of civil society in regulation and developing solutions.
Mvula’s Policy Unit has raised funds to hold a citizens assembly, bringing together active citizens interested in improving water quality. We are also busy with a research project about citizen based monitoring and the dynamics of the subcatchment forums working with water quality issues.
Mvula is involved in current debates about the place of subcatchment forums in the developing catchment management architecture.