The country's water crisis is past the eleventh hour as red-tape and interdepartmental bureaucracy remain major stumbling blocks to addressing the problem, trade union United Association of South Africa (UASA) said on Wednesday.
"Since March this year, it has taken the trade union UASA three well-publicised high-level seminars, an authoritative impact study, numerous meetings and a Section 77 application at National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) to bring home the message that South Africa is facing a gigantic water crisis," the union said in a statement.
The union said its water security crusade, labelled ‘H2O 4 Life', has "awakened" government, organised business and others to the harsh reality that acid mine drainage and the dumping of sewage and industrial pollutants in "meagre" sources of fresh water were threatening the country.
The next meeting, where government, business and organised labour will continue their discussions was due to take place between December 1 or 2.
Cabinet has since appointed an interministerial task team to investigate the matter and to come forward with recommendations. The task team's report, which was due to be tabled in October, has not yet been tabled.
"We're past the eleventh hour already and if urgent measures aren't taken immediately, it will result in reactive rather than proactive measures - trying to limit the damage instead of preventing it," the union said.
"Urgent steps needed to be taken by the government departments concerned. Unfortunately red-tape and interdepartmental bureaucracy seem to have been major stumbling blocks since then."
Various organisations have raised concerns over the build-up of contaminated water from mining activities in recent months.
According to a report titled ‘Integrated water quality management for the Vaal River System', Gauteng could lack sufficient drinkable water in five years due to acid water running from mining activities to the Vaal dam.
The report, suggesting a number of measures that can be taken to alleviate the situation as a matter of urgency and was complied by a number of bodies including the government, Eskom, Agri SA and Chamber of Mines.