Plans to keep drinking water safe by dealing with acid mine drainage (AMD) in various mining basins in Gauteng could see ordinary citizens paying a water levy.
The National government was trying to "pass the buck" by imposing a levy on taxpayers, said SA spokesperson for water in Johannesburg, Ralf Bittkau.
An estimated capital expenditure of R10 billion had been touted for interventions in the form of pumping stations and the like, he said. An estimated R1 billion a year would be needed to keep such intervention running.
According to the proposal, government would contribute R440 million and the mines a further R660 million, he said.
"The current plan to partially treat and release AMD into the Vaal River is not sustianable Bittkau said.
End water users would shoulder the 90% shortfall through water levies now being imposed on local municipalities, he said.
Bittkau described the proposed levy as an attempt to "milk the soft target of paying citizens".
Department of water affairs spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the levy had been proposed by former water affairs minister Edna Molewa. It had yet to be finalised, as the decision lay with the National Treasury.
Untreated heavy-metal laden water from the Western Basin, which decants from disused and unrehabilitated mines near Krugersdorp, endangers drinking water flowing into the Vaal System.
"The Vaal supplies water to 60% of the economy and 45% of the population of South Africa," said Mariette Liefferink, CEO at the Federation for a Sustainable Environment.
The current methods of AMD treatment "are currently carried by the taxpayers and not by mining industry" Liefferink said.
Immediate action was needed to be taken to "curb" AMD's effects on the environment and ordinary citizens, Ratua said.