There is growing concern, almost turning into general consensus, that South Africa could experience a water crisis in the not-too-distant future, particularly given a chronic lack of skills in the sector and, hence, what some are describing as inadequate management of infrastructure, especially at local government level.
Water-management areas face a water deficit, ecosystems and water resources are already being placed under pressure by various users in the sectors, and available resources and appropriate water resources are being affected by decreasing water quality, which, in turn, affect net availability.
The Water Institute of Southern Africa (Wisa) reports that water security is a significant challenge for the local water sector, with currently only 35% to 40% of river runoff water being harnessed, leaving the rest to flow into the ocean.
Wisa CE Junior Potloane says that investment is required to harness runoff water and increase storage capacity. “As one of the 30 driest countries in the world, it is important to secure water sources for economic, environmental and social needs,” he asserts.
Another challenge is the refurbishment of infrastructure for both raw and processed water. Potloane says that there are currently 274 State-owned dams that are in need of refurbishment and that 30% to 40% of water is lost through leaks in pipes. The pollution of wastewater is also a consequence of water and sanitation works working above capacity. More and improved water resource infrastructure must be provided to tackle this challenge and harness existing water resources.
Golder Associates business unit leader of environmental technology Dr Ralph Heath adds that continuous mass urbanisation has placed the water industry under severe pressure, particularly regarding sanitation. “Urbanisation and industrialisation put pressure on the country’s water management because they change the need and increase the demand for water,” he says.
South Africa WILL experience a water crisis sooner rather than later if the current state of affairs persists. It’s debatable whether we are already in the midst of a water crisis. Many local municipalities in Mpumalanga and Limpopo are struggling to provide water and sewage services (mismanagement is often to blame). Extreme weather conditions resulting in droughts and floods will break the back of many water management services in South Africa. As an individual, there are ways that you can assist in reducing the pressure on our overburdened water and sanitation works. By installing a grey water recycling system or a grey water ‘second movement’ system, you can virtually eliminate grey water from entering the sewers. Whether you use municipal water or your own borehole water, rainwater harvesting systems can ensure that you have emergency supplies available (boreholes can dry up or become contaminated and reliable, safe municipal water provision is not a sure thing these days). Not only will you be saving water and the environment, Water Rhapsody systems can save you money- up to 90% of your municipal water bills. See our product demo for an overview of how the various water saving devices work.