Friday, June 9, 2023

Botswana’s tap water not safe to drink – Auditor General

The Auditor General is concerned about the safety of tap water in Botswana after tests revealed higher levels of micro-organisms the acceptable standard.

The Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, claims that the Water Utilities Corporation’s (WUC) inadequate monitoring of the water quality in water distribution facilities, such as water storage tanks and the water distribution network, poses a danger.

“The drinking water supplied to the communities did not meet the required specifications for drinking water as it contained micro-organisms that exceeded allowable limits for drinking water for both chemistry and microbiology indicators,” states the audit report, which focused on the operations of WUC from financial years 2014/15 to 2018/19.

The report states that this was a result of a shortage of monitoring tools and transportation to complete the sampling schedule. “The supply of contaminated water is a public health threat,” says the Auditor General in her report.

The report which sought to determine whether WUC had implemented measures to guarantee that the nation’s potable water services were provided in an economical, efficient, and effective way states that the Corporation did not adequately maintain its water infrastructure (boreholes, booster pumps, water storage tanks and water treatment plants) as maintenance was executed in a “reactive manner”.

“This was due to procurement inefficiencies, lack of expertise and capacity by WUC to carry out maintenance, as well as inadequate Management of water infrastructure projects. The downtime of infrastructure had resulted in some communities staying for more than 2 days to a month without water,” states the report.

The report states, among other things, that WUC failed to control water losses to the 15% rate that is considered to be acceptable globally. “Both apparent and real water losses experienced by WUC were mainly from the water distribution system through leakages, customer meter inaccuracies and unauthorised consumption,” the report adds.

The report also blames the high water losses on lack of a strategy for finding leaks and poor upkeep of the water infrastructure. “The water losses had negatively contributed to the imbalance in water demand and supply.  Additionally, the water losses strained the water resources and reduced the Corporation’s revenue,” states the report.

The report states that with regards to concerns that WUC failed to ensure “that all people had access to potable water in the country” and that “some households in some villages had limited or no access to potable water due to delays in connecting customers to the water grid”, WUC management responded to the Auditor General saying they “had developed a new WUC structure that has stream-lined responsibilities”.

The WUC management told the Auditor General that with regard to water not meeting required specifications for drinking, the “Corporation has several projects aimed at installation of new treatment plants and optimisation of the existing treatment plants as well as moving from disinfection using chlorine gas to chlorine dioxide which has more advantages. In areas where there are no treatment facilities, chlorine floaters and tablets are used in disinfection and meanwhile water quality is monitored on daily basis with manual dosing of chlorine through floaters in villages with no disinfection facilities.”

With regard to imbalance in water pressure, management told the Auditor General that “water supply and demand management is implemented along the North South Carrier Corridor including Greater Gaborone area and rollout to other areas was ongoing.”

In addition, the report states that WUC Management developed a thorough debt management strategy that included calling clients, using loud haulers, and using third party debt collectors.

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