POLLUTION OF THE VAAL RIVER SYSTEM IN SOUTH AFRICA: A CASE STUDY
Free (open access)
17 - 26
ELKINGTON SIBUSISO MNGUNI
The Vaal River is one of South Africa’s strongest flowing rivers. It is home to the Vaal Dam, which supplies water to the Gauteng Province, South Africa’s economic hub. Over the years, the failing wastewater treatment system in the catchment area has led to continued pollution of the river, compromising this critical resource and the economy of the region. In 2018, following a public outcry, the South African Human Rights Commission instituted an inquiry into the state of affairs of the region’s water and sanitation management issues as well as the level and extent of the pollution problem. The Commission discovered raw sewerage in a stream flowing through the Emfuleni Golf Course, burst sewer pipes on the banks of the Rietspruit, dysfunctional components in the Rietspruit Wastewater Treatment Works, blocked manholes, and children from a nearby school swimming in and consuming polluted water. Raw sewage was found to be discharging from dysfunctional wastewater treatment plants into the receiving Vaal River. In the findings of the report released in February 2021, the Commission found that the Vaal River was polluted beyond acceptable levels. This case study reviews the state of the Vaal River pollution, including the measures that have been designed to address the problem in the short, medium, and long term. It also looks into the successes and challenges being encountered in addressing the Vaal River water pollution problem.
Vaal River, pollution, wastewater treatment, interventions