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WC&WDM (Water Supply)

Water is a basic human need and the access to a sufficient amount is a basic human right. The definition of what is “sufficient” is blurred. Internationally, the World Health Organization recognizes 50 l/c/d as the required amount of water, South Africa however considers 25 l/c/d or 6000l/hh/d as sufficient. However many citizens, who can pay for more, use vastly more water on a daily basis.

Access to water is not only about the minimum needed to survive as there are a number of benefits which can be realized. These include health benefits from improved cleanliness which should be a goal of the system (CSIR, 2000). These may not be realized in the absence of an adequate sanitation system resulting in increased health risks.

The central purpose of water supply is to meet and where possible exceed the needs of the population in terms of quantity, quality and reliability (Constitutional Court, 2009).

Meeting these requirements is one thing, funding the current and the expanding of services is another. Locally and internationally there is an on-going “water debate” dominated by three issues:

  • water as a market commodity versus water as a basic right;
  • the privatization of water services (particularly in developing countries); and
  • management of water as a scarce resource.” (Graham, undated)

Most recently these issues were placed before the Constitutional Court in South Africa which overturned the rulings of two lower courts in favour of current government policy in terms of quality, quantity and reliability. The ruling dealt with many of the major issues, highlighting that the country is “water scarce” and the rights of people to have access to a basic water supply need to be balanced by the government’s duty to manage water services sustainably (Constitutional Court, 2009). It is important to consider the following when implementing a new water supply initiative:

  • Why is the water supply needed?
  • Who will use the water and for what activities?
  • What is the problem with the current situation and how will the proposed water supply project alleviate the problem? (CSIR, 2000)

Levels of Service

The Table below shows a typical example of the Levels of Service offered by South African municipalities

Level Description Level of Service


None Natural resources


Sub Standard Water point more than 200m walking distance


Basic Communal standpipe less than 200m walking distance


Intermediate Yard connections/yard tanks


Full Service House connections

In determining what level is to be offered a range of issues need to be considered including:

  • Social (who is using the water, for what)
  • Legal requirements
  • Economic (Availability of funding, and communities willingness to pay)

Access to sufficient water is a basic human right. Water is a scarce resource in South Africa and therefore needs to be managed sustainably.