Gauteng and NW Province

Water crisis looms, but there is hope. . .

With Water Month drawing to a close, the government has admitted that South Africa face a huge problem with water supplies in the future.
In the short term, water resources will be squeezed and people will have to change their habits. But the solutions for the long term are there, if enough money is raised.
This marks a departure from previous years, when the department of water affairs had continually assured people that there was no problem with water security.
The change in attitude was made apparent after documentation attached to this year’s budget said demand for water would overtake supply by as early as 2025.
In his State of the Nation speech, President Jacob Zuma also highlighted the importance of water. It was up to Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan to announce the R75-billion in funding the schemes would receive.
The department said the huge boost in funding for infrastructure will overcome the historical problems South Africa has with water.
These are many: Gauteng, with its industry and lion’s share of the economy, lies on the continental divide, so any water flows away to the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The rain that does fall is erratic and on average is only half of the world average. The rivers that are supposed to catch the rain are small – even combined, their entire flow only equals half that of the Zambesi – and they are mostly so short that space for dams is at a premium.
Around a quarter of Gauteng’s water comes from Lesotho through the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme. But all of this water is allocated. So until 2020, when the next phase of the Lesotho scheme comes online with 151-million extra kilolitres of water, the country is in trouble.
About a third of South Africa’s water dribbles leaks from existing infrastructure into the ground! An extra 180-million kilolitres of water could be saved by fixing water leaks.
According to Nigel Adams, head of the deaprtment’s Blue Scorpions, around 229-million kilolitres of water are stolen each year from the Vaal river system alone.
Sasol and Eskom are substantial water users and last week at the World Water Forum in Marseilles, France, both sounded a warning over future supplies. While they are safe – they get preferential access because of their importance – they said just one major drought would have widespread consequences for industry and agriculture.
The department of water affairs need R25-billion to fix its ageing infrastructure. Until this money results in more sitting in South Africa’s dams, minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa said a “behavioural change” from people would be necessary to help survive the short-term.
-Sipho Kings McDermott-
Mail & Guardian March 23 to 29 2012

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