"Among the many things that I learnt as president was the centrality of water in the social, political and economic affairs of the country, the continent and the world." These words were spoken by former president Nelson Mandela at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, 2002.
Despite its importance to development, human health, a thriving economy and a sustainable environment, the quality of South Africa's water is fast degrading. Already considered water stressed, the country is pegged to be water scarce by 2025. Naturally a semi-arid nation and the 30th driest country in the world, minimal water resources are being stretched by rising demands from an increasing population and growing industry, and further harmed by poor maintenance of human, agricultural, and industrial waste.
Concerns that Johannesburg and the Cradle of Humankind will soon be flooded with acid mine drainage (AMD) have been central to discussions on polluted mine water for months, with the public being worked up into a frenzy about the CBD sinking and South Africa's heritage being wiped out.
While a media storm has been created around these predictions, fuelled by worried activists and a reactionary government, estimations of both sites flooding are not as concrete as one might think. Some scientists and government officials note that Johannesburg will with no uncertainty be the next target, advocating action, while others claim the city faces a very minimal threat. Similar opinions surround potential affects on the Cradle.
Environmental activist Mariette Liefferink's four-inch crimson heels still sport their Woolworths sticker as they puncture the sulphuric crust lining Robinson Lake, situated in the Western Basin of the Witwatersrand.
The water is quiet, smells slightly of vinegar and laps gently against a shore devoid of any life save for a few, lone reeds. Behind the lake is a large, naked yellow mountain of mine waste adorned with a few small green nets meant to stop the dust from blowing in an incessant wind.
The current lime treatment of the uncontrolled AMD has resulted in the deposition of sludge in the first receptor dam within the Tweelopiespruit, part of the Crocodile River System and Limpopo Catchment.Â This dam, the Hippo Dam, is outside mine property, located within the Krugersdorp Game Reserve.Â The sludge contains toxic and radioactive heavy metals.
This document records a chronological timeline of Government efforts regarding the treatment of Acid Mine Drainage: West Rand goldfields.
Marievale wetland, near Springs on the East Rand, has been world-famous for its abundant birdlife for decades. Listed under the Ramsar convention on internationally important wetlands, one of only a few such sites in South Africa, this paradise is in danger. An upstream gold mine has been dumping billions of litres of contaminated water into the Blesbokspruit, the river that feeds Marievale. The problems at this mine could be a threat to the whole East Rand region. The polluted water - about a hundred million litres a day - is pumped from deep underground by No. 3 Shaft of the Grootvlei gold mine to prevent the flooding of its tunnels. Jock Botha is the foreman of 3 Shaft.
The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) as part of the Government Task Team on mine closure and water management together with mining companies have agreed on a model to deal with the Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) challenge that is affecting the Western, Central and Eastern Basins (the Witwatersrand gold fields area) which is impacting mainly on the Vaal and the Crocodile River systems.
Die Federasie vir ’n Volhoubare Omgewing (FVO) wil die regering hof toe vat om hom te dwing om van die myne aan die Wes-Rand te help om suur mynwater te beheer.
Dié water gaan vermoedelik “binne dae” by skagte en fonteine begin uitborrel.
Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE), an NGO striving to protect the Vaal River and its environs, obtained a court order in the High Court of Johannesburg on Tuesday 2 June 2009 against the Emfuleni municipality.Â Despite strenuous opposition to the application by Emfuleni, Judge John Horn ordered Emfuleni to stop the deliberate sewage spillage into the Vaal River that has been occurring unabated for months.
The discovery of gold changed the fortunes of those who made Johannesburg their home. But 120 years later, abandoned gold mines on the West Rand have left a legacy of pollution that is threatening the security of the water supply. This pollution has also destroyed agricultural land and led to premature deaths and miscarriages in animals at a nearby game reserve.
Krugersdorp. – Suur mynwater het vermoedelik reeds die Zwartkranskompartement bereik waarin die Wieg van die Mensdom (Sterkfonteingrotte) geleë is.
Dit is ’n kommerwekkende situasie wat dopgehou moet word,” het mnr. Phil Hobbs, navorser van die Wetenskaplike Nywerheidsnavorsingsraad (WNNR), gister gesê by ’n vergadering oor die “krisis” met suur mynwater wat in die Tweelopiespruit beland en deur die Krugersdorp-wildtuin loop.
Die suur mynwater loop ook ondergronds en is opgemerk in ’n boorgat naby die begin van die Zwartkranskompartement, het Hobbs gesê.
"It is ...clear that the (Vaal River) system is under severe pressure and there is no reserve for further dilution to take place. It is this fact that is making the option of transporting more water from the Vaal to Witbank so precarious. All of the clean water out of the Lesotho Highlands Project is needed for dilution of the pollutants in the Vaal system. There is no spare capacity." ~ Koos Pretorius, Director and Founding member of FSE
Download the full document (about 1MB) Portfolio Committee presentation June 2008
South Africa faces an electricity supply crisis today because the government ignored the warnings it was given more than ten years ago. The same situation is now facing us with regard to water supply. A combination of polluted water sources and poor management of dams, sewerage works and treatment plants has led to a situation where our water supply is under serious threat.