Oct 2012

Save water; it’s a scarce resource

Chris Bathembu

South Africa may soon face a serious water shortage if people do not use water sparingly, government warned recently.
South Africa is a water-scarce country, with an average annual rainfall of about 464 mm compared to a world average of about 860mm. But many South Africans still waste a lot of water.
The draft National Water Resource Strategy, released by government recently, calls for communities, business entities and farmers to save water by at least 10 per cent.
Speaking during the release of the document, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said South Africa could not afford to invest in new water infrastructure now.
“The investments that we are making in water are not enough and the funding gap is too big. So until we find the money we are calling on people to save as much water as possible, “she said.

Lesotho Highlands
South Africa has a water partnership with Lesotho, which has led to the provision of water from the Lesotho Highlands to Gauteng. But, Molewa said, if South Africa continued to use more water than it really needed, even these resources could dry up before the new infrastructure was in place.
According to the Water Resource Strategy, South Africa’s water security has to date relied mainly on surface water and its development.
“Based on the completed water reconciliation studies, it is clear that surface water availability and its remaining development potential will be insufficient to support the growing economy and associated needs in full”. The strategy also highlights the fact that most water is available in areas far from where people live, which makes it expensive to take to the people.

Demand exceeds supply
Another concern is that most municipalities and other water users, especially farmers, do not monitor water use and are therefore unable to see their water losses. This is made worse by the lack of proper infrastructure management and maintenance. As a result, the demand for water far exceeds supply in many areas.
The catchments that provide water to the Durban/Pietermaritzburg area for example are almost dry. According to the report, other large water supply systems will soon face a similar situation.
“So by managing our water resources in a proper way we ensure that we balance demand and supply and that there is no shortage and we should be fine for the next 20 years until new infrastructure is in place,” Molewa said.

For more information, call the Department of Water Affairs Call Centre toll free number 0800 200 200

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