One has to watch Carte Blance only once to realise just how big the water problem is, and will be in South Africa. Unless drinking (and grey water) can be repeat-ably and reliably tested, scientists will not be able to improve on the current situation. Thus, the need exists for a Chemical Laboratory to provide this service to the Eastern Cape region.
In 2003, 63% of South African municipalities were not able to state with certainty that they complied with drinking water quality standards or not. The Department of Water Affairs introduced, in 2008, a so-called “Blue Drop” incentive-based water quality regulation strategy. Under the strategy municipal service providers were certified with a “Blue Drop” if they fulfilled certain requirements that included not only compliance with water quality standards, but also the existence of a water safety plan, process controlling, and the credibility of samples and sampling results among others. By 2009, 23 drinking water supply systems obtained the Blue Drop certification. In 2010, 9 lost it and 24 gained it for the first time, bringing the total to 38 (less than 5%) out of 787 systems that were assessed.
The water supply is increasingly under pressure, with about one third of the total volume of water held in strategic storage, approaching the point where it is no longer fit for drinking water purpose without significant and costly management intervention. 55% of wastewater treatment plants do not meet effluent standards and some do not even measure effluent quality. As of May 2011, 7 out of 159 water supply authorities were certified with the green drop as well as 32 out of 1,237 wastewater treatment plants. In 2009, when 449 wastewater treatment plants were assessed, according to official government data 7% were classified as excellently managed, 38% “performed within acceptable standards” and 55% did not perform within acceptable standards.