TOMORROW the 17000 residents of Carolina, Mpumalanga, backed by Lawyers for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Centre, will apply for an urgent court order giving Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and six other officials, a month to explain what has been done to supply the town with water services.

The right to water services is entrenched in the constitution. It will be the second time in the past few weeks that nongovernmental organisations have taken the state to court to force it to meet constitutional requirements.

Last month, the North Gauteng High Court ruled the Department of Basic Education had violated the constitution by failing to provide textbooks to Limpopo schools. Human rights group Section 27 took the department to court, and won an order demanding the books be delivered by June 15.

Papers filed at the court, which is also to hear the Carolina application, allege some residents had been forced to drink tap water polluted by acid mine water because the state's efforts to provide water to the town have been sporadic.

South Africans were constitutionally guaranteed "sufficient water", said local farmer Koos Pretorius in his affidavit. Mr Pretorius is also director of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, an activist nongovernmental organisation.

The Water Services Act guarantees access to basic water supply and basic sanitation, with "basic water supply" defined as 25l a person a day, or 6kl a household a month.

Department of Water Affairs spokesman Mava Scott said on Friday the state attorney had still not filed answering affidavits, and would do so today.

blaines@bdfm.co.za