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More than 90% of SA households believe tap water is safe to drink

A screenshot of the infographic published on the MailOnline. A screenshot of the infographic published on the MailOnline. Click to enlarge.

Is drinking tap water in South Africa “risky business”? The United Kingdom’s MailOnline claimed so this week in an article on where it was safe to drink tap water around the world.

According to an infographic, originally published by travel website Just The Flight, you can’t drink tap water in South Africa....or anywhere in Africa, actually. The MailOnline advised that “if you are holidaying in Africa or South America, bottled water will be the order of the day as tap water is unsafe for human consumption.”

The data for the infographic was supposedly sourced from the United States of America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South African politicians have previously made the opposite claim about the quality of the country’s drinking water.

In 2013, President Jacob Zuma claimed that South Africa is “one of only 12 countries where tap water is safe to drink throughout the country”. And former Water Affairs minister Buyelwa Sonjica onced claimed that South Africa is “one of only a handful of countries globally where one can drink water directly from the tap with confidence”.

Dr Anthony Turton, a prominent water resource management specialist and professor at the University of the Free State’s Centre for Environmental Management, previously told Africa Check that he was not aware of “any objective [water] ranking system operating at global level”.

What do we know about the quality of South Africa’s drinking water? Statistics South Africa’s 2014 General Household Survey reported that 90% of households had access to water.

When it came to the quality of the water, 7.6% of households believed that their water was not safe to drink. Almost 8% of households said their water was not clear, 8.9% said it did not taste good and 6.7% said the water smelled bad. Put another way, more than 90% believe the water to be safe to drink.

And the rest of Africa? We’ll be looking into that claim next week.

Additional reading

Zuma’s claim that SA is one of only 12 countries with safe tap water is untrue

Claim that 94% in SA have access to safe drinking water…doesn’t hold water

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