As awful as the situation in Hammanskraal is, the problem of access to clean water is a major national health issue. 700 (of 1130) wastewater treatment plants are currently classified as “bad”.
The news that residents of Hammanskraal have died from a cholera outbreak should be shocking - but the sad truth is that it’s not.
As awful as the situation in Hammanskraal is, there are a multitude of issues relating to both the provision of potable water and the treatment of wastewater. If you are a journalist or researcher following the issue, OpenUp has been tracking water quality indicators in South Africa for a long time now, as part of a project with the Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism which you can see here. Official data shows that 700 out of 1130 have been given the lowest ranking for compliance, “bad”.
There are many factors around service delivery that have no doubt led to the tragic situation in Hammanskraal. We still don’t know (at the time of writing) what the root cause of the cholera outbreak was. But it has provoked a lot of interest on the subject of water quality in the country.
We’re passionate about the use of maps to communicate this kind of information to the public, and our tool shows that the Hammanskraaal is far from the only area that has issues with water quality. In fact, the number of treatment plants that are listed as “Bad” in physical, chemical and microbiological assessments might astound you.
There is no region of the country that does not have failing facilities. It’s a national problem.
Last year, we were proud to be part of the team that used this data for Rivers of Sewage, an investigation into water the impact of poor water quality which has been shortlisted for several major journalism awards. You can read more about that project here.