THE Department of Water and Sanitation introduced the Blue Drop certification in 2008 to improve the standard for drinking water quality in the country with challenges remaining in the Eastern Cape, writes Thandile Ngcume of the department.
The Blue Drop certification is an incentive based regulatory programme initiated by the department. It seeks to amalgamate legal requirements and best practices within the domain of drinking water quality management towards a sustainable improvement. It includes implementation of risk management. The Water Service Authorities (WSA) are encouraged to strive for excellence and the Blue Drop Status is granted if the blue drop score is >95%.
In spite of a relatively good performance since inception, challenges remain in the following aspects: process controlling, i.e. insufficient skilled process controllers and high vacancy rate. Further, inconsistent and insufficient monitoring compromising good performance as well as data uploading on Blue Drop System (analytical results not loaded under correct programme or results not loaded at all). Furthermore, Water Services Institutions not always sufficiently prepared for adverse incidents, vandalism of infrastructure as well as a lack of investment in infrastructure remains a challenge.
There has been 16 Water Service Authorities (WSAs) with 155 water supply systems supported by Amatola Water in 66 systems. The Blue Drop score in the Eastern Cape declined by 10% from 82% in 2012 to 72% in 2014. In the last assessment which took place in 2014 no system achieved a Blue Drop status. However, improvements were observed in Chris Hani District Municipality, Koukamma Local Municipality and OR Tambo District Municipality. Only one system, Ikhwezi Local Municipality, is in a critical state compared to 25 in 2013 and 50 in 2012.
There has been a drop in the number of Water Supply Systems that achieved a Blue Drop Status. However, this does not automatically translate to poor drinking water quality compliance as a blue drop score of 50% can still be sustainable. In other words, the fact that a Water Service Authority does not have a Blue Drop status does not mean that their water is not safe to drink but rather there are other elements of the assessment criteria that they did not do well in during the assessment. Currently the national microbiological compliance is 97.2%. It must be noted that drinking Water Quality Compliance is one of the Key Performance Areas measured in the Blue Drop Assessments along with Water Safety Planning (risk management), Asset Management, Process Management and Control (Qualification of Process Controllers and maintenance personnel), Water use efficiency and loss management (Minimisation and management of water losses along the supply value chain) and Management Accountability & Local Regulation.