Gauteng and NW Province

South Africa’s water resources under immense pressure

South Africa is currently facing a multi-faceted water crisis. The mismatch between water supply and water demand, the theft of water resources, a deteriorating infrastructure, the loss of essential skills, a strangling educational pipeline, management failure, and deterioration in the quality of water, are all potential threats and key concerns.

Anja du Plessis, project leader of the Water Conservation and Management Focus Group in Unisa’s Geography Department says because of the growing population and the expanding economy, South Africa’s current freshwater resource status is described as being under immense pressure. “Practically all of South Africa’s freshwater resources, including those from rivers, manmade dams and groundwater sources, had already been fully allocated by 2005. Concerning the future demand for water, it has been predicted that South Africa will suffer serious water shortages in 2020.”

In addition, given the current and anticipated future growth rates of the population and trends in socio-economic development, Du Plessis says it is estimated that South Africa’s freshwater resources will be unable to sustain the current patterns of water use and discharge. “It is estimated that the country’s total requirements for water use will double over the next 30 years. Major industrial development and urban settlement have taken place in regions where water resources are not readily available and have resulted in substantial potential impacts on the quality of water in the country, which is already limited in terms of supply.”

In line with the global theme of Earth Day 2014, Green Cities, this article forms part of a series of articles which highlight the research Unisa’s scholars have undertaken in this regard, and other commitments the university makes in addressing climate change.


We HAVE to use less water! It’s not an option anymore. We cannot afford to wait till it’s too late, till there is no water, till we suffer days with water outages. Please conserve water. By harvesting rainwater and using it inside the house lessen the demand on an already diminishing supply. If we all save water, if only every second house could harvest rainwater, we can secure the future of water. By recycling your grey water you can at least take care of irrigation. Become water wise, not water short. We can all make a difference. Have that back-up water supply, don’t wait.

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