Gauteng and NW Province

How severe is South Africa’s water shortage?

Mel Frykberg

A shortage of water has long been a problem in South Africa due to limited rainfall in many parts of the country.

The issue of just how water-scarce the country is, however, has been the subject of research by hydrologists, in an attempt to quantify and understand the relationships between rainfall and streamflow as well as between rainfall and groundwater recharge.

Over the last 30 years the Water Research Commission (WRC) has commissioned numerous hydrological investigations. Of note in relation to the above, three major national surveys of South Africa’s national water resources, i.e. ”Surface Water Resources of South Africa” in 1980 was updated in 1990, and lastly in 2005 (WR2005), which was completed and launched jointly by the WRC and the Department of Water Affairs in September 2009.

“These studies provide the cornerstone of baseline national water resources assessment and planning for South Africa as required in the National Water Act and the National Water Resource Strategy,” said WRC Research Manager Wandile Nomquphu.

“Each study has been roughly conducted every 10th year, and this 10-year gap between assessments is too long in a water-stressed country, with accelerated demands, in which rainfall is highly variable with real threats of climate change impacts”, said Nomquphu.

To bridge this gap, the WRC is commissioning a four-year integrated “Water Resources of South Africa 2012” (WR2012) study which is scheduled to commence on April 1, 2012.

The main purpose of the study is to update the WR2005 System by including groundwater and certain aspects of water quality into the assessment. It will also aim to create a web-based and interactive reporting system to continually quantify both surface and groundwater resources of South Africa.

Such a system will be essential in the continuous update of the National Water Resource Strategy. Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, WRC CEO, says, “The outputs from this study will serve as inputs to the water resource planning models of the Department of Water Affairs, as has been the case with the outputs from previous studies and hopefully will act as the basis for the National Water Resources.

“With steeply declining operational (active) rain gauges and streamflow gauges, gaps in data and gaps in understanding our water resources are increasing the uncertainty in decision-making about the country’s water resources’’ adds Nomquphu.

“Therefore, the WR2012 Study will recommend the minimum monitoring requirements that the country cannot do without in order to understand and effectively manage its water resources.”

Mr Allan Bailey, of Stuart Scott International (SSI), and project leader for the consortium that will update the study says: “As there are numerous large water resource studies required for the Department of Water Affairs and other clients, it is essential that users have a comprehensive, up-to-date and reliable database of water resources data and information.

“We feel that we have achieved this with the WR2005 study but we need to continually provide new, updated and enhanced data.

TNA The New Age

One Country One Paper

Mar 9 2012 9:15AM

So who really knows? Who will really admit to the crisis? Is it, as usual, another ‘hush hush’ ? Maybe we will just have more and more water restrictions and pay more and more for water…. that way we are forced to use less and less. Is it then not better to reduce dependency on the municipality and harvest your own rainwater, which is free!

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