South Africa's underfunded, badly managed sewage works in many towns are "ticking time bombs", The Cape Times reported on Wednesday.
Its website said MPs heard on Tuesday that this could lead to outbreaks of waterborne diseases, while drinking water in many rural towns failed to meet government health standards.
These were some of the submissions made to parliament's water affairs portfolio committee on the first of two days of public hearings on water quality.
Urgent intervention required
A national survey by the Water Research Commission found that almost 30 percent of the country's sewage works needed urgent intervention "to avoid a crisis" like an outbreak of waterborne diseases.
Another 66 percent required short- to medium-term attention.
Another survey found that two-thirds of municipalities did not know it was their job to treat drinking water before supplying it to the public.
In many cases officials in charge of drinking water quality were poorly paid and some had no training at all, the committee heard. – (Sapa)
Cape rivers used as 'toilets'