News From Africa

Africa: Rivers Of Sewage – Solving South Africa’s Wastewater Treatment Problem


Two weeks ago, DM168 published an investigation looking into the dismal state of SA’s sewage treatment works. Struck by the report’s findings, we asked you, the reader, to suggest solutions. Here’s what you had to say:

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Read the original investigation here: South Africa’s rivers of sewage: More than half of SA’s treatment works are failing

Solving South Africa’s wastewater treatment problem is no easy feat. As we now know, more than half of the country’s treatment plants are in “poor or critical condition” and 75% of 910 municipality-run wastewater treatment works achieved less than 50% compliance with minimum effluent standards in 2020.

The failure of wastewater treatment plants is harming our environment and health on an unprecedented scale, as billions of litres of raw and poorly treated sewage enter our rivers and oceans daily. But how do we go about tackling the problem?


“At heart this is a systemic failure caused by putting the wrong people in charge,” says Professor Neil Armitage, the deputy director of Future Water at the University of Cape Town.

The only fix, in Armitage’s view, is replacing those currently in power with “people who know…

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