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Community and Water Care

By Dr. Tony Igboamalu

My work within many African countries has widened my understanding of poverty and how we define it in the African horizon, it is defined in terms of lack of well-being and severe inequalities.

About 14.7% of the world’s population live below the brink for extreme poverty of which 33% live in Africa according to article by Julian in 2016. To eradicate poverty in Africa, means providing a sustainable strategy for increasing the income and welfare of the poor as well as securing a well- functioning clean water supply.

A well-functioning water supply infrastructure is an important factor with respect to well-being. Improper functioning of water supply has not only caused severe poverty, but it has also resulted in environmental contamination, poor agriculture, increased mortality rates which in turn result in a loss of critical skills.

Poor water supply, sanitation, and hygiene is one of the major causes of poverty, and thus numerous poor populations suffer a lot in our community. This has resulted in various water related diseases such as; Typhoid or E. Coli infection, cancer or even death. It is of interest to note that there are fewer or no functioning or non-maintained water and sewer reticulation infrastructures in most rural areas in Africa, and the majority settle for cheap unlined concrete septic tanks, often collected by truck tanker drivers, and discharged into the river without proper treatment or untreated borehole water supply.

In most cases this untreated sewerage infiltrates and contaminates underground water which is about 100 – 200 m away from the drinking water source. Secondly, it is logical to argue that community unrest is also associated with poor water and sanitation service delivery which is because of water inaccessibility to poor communities.

In South Africa water scarcity is set to rise to 17% or more in 2030, therefore it is vital to secure our water resource to mitigate this effect. If this is not mitigated, we all know the consequences (e.g. Cape town water crisis as a case study). Majority of rural areas in South Africa do not have access to drinking water and good sanitation “take Emfuleni Municipality as an example”. Secondly most of Municipalities are struggling to meet green drop or blue drop or no drop requirements, and this could be attributed to high infrastructure deficit, poor maintenance, or lack of skills to operate and maintain the water infrastructure.

Though South Africa is a dry climatic region, many factors contribute to water scarcity is the “Water Use and Allocation Policy”. This policy was made during a time when agriculture was a lucrative business. To date, about 60 % of water was allocated to agricultural, while the remaining 40 % was allocated to both domestic and industrial use.

With the current industrial growth and development, I believe that this policy may need to be revised. Secondly, inefficiency in operation and maintenance of infrastructure, hence our infrastructure should be owed and care by the community. Community involvement is vital to ensure those infrastructures are efficiently operated and well maintained.

Thirdly, community unawareness and limited skills to look after our infrastructure is a big challenge. We need to educate our youth to be able to operate and maintain these infrastructures. By taking care of the infrastructure by the community, this will help the government to manage this effectively, because it is the communities that have the in-depth understanding of the damaged to the water supply system since it affects their service delivery.

I believe that a sustainable solution towards ending poverty and developing communities can be achieved by complementing engineering solutions with finance, investment, and economic in the context of public-private partnership, and programme to educate communities regarding water and wastewater management.

Like in the energy sector, it is important that we create a conducive environment for foreign investors, and government should seriously consider spending a lot of money in water and wastewater infrastructure for it to look attractive. One of the ways I think wastewater could be made an attractive business model for investors is through wastewater recycle and reuse; either as potable water or industrial process water use etc.).

Dr. Tony Igboamalu is Senior Consultant (Advisor, Water Infrastructure. Water and Wastewater Engineering Specialist at AURECON) and CESA Commended Young Engineer of the Year 2019.


Mzukona Mantshontsho is the founder of Nyakaza Media Solutions. Nyakaza Media Solutions is an organisation that was established to help community organisations, business entities, and schools to research, write, document, report, analyse, edit, publish newsletters or bulletins in hard-copy, on-line and maintain websites with the relevant content as per the editorial policy of that organisation, school or entity. Nyakaza Media Solutions has a vision to promote and bring dialogue to communities, businesses and schools about issues that affect them. Nyakaza Media Solutions is on a mission to develop and encourage communities, businesses and learners to celebrate the good, applaud excellence, welcome growth, strive to be better individuals, businesses and communities, want more knowledge, discourage bad and counter-productive behaviour as well as communities, businesses and learners that want to be great SOUTH AFRICANS. Nyakaza Media Solutions is making use of Yo School Magazine as a platform that learners in all schools to make use of to write their stories.

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