South Africa is fast running out of the fresh water needed for myriad industrial processes, from food production to mining. More than 95% of the country’s available fresh water was already allocated by 2005.
In South Africa, the ability at municipal level to deal with industrial effluent was “severely compromised”, Mr Lloyd-Jones, MD of hygiene and sanitation company Waterwise, said.
This gave a practical bent to the moral imperative to “put it back as you found it”, he said.
South Africa was not doing enough to protect its available fresh water, and climate change was set to deepen the problem by changing rainfall patterns, said World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa’s water programme senior manager, Christine Colvin.
It was generally predicted that South Africa’s east would become wetter and the west drier, she said.
“The one thing that is agreed on (scientifically) is that we are likely to feel the impact of climate change first through (its) impacts on water,” she said.
The extent of the crisis in municipalities is evident in the annual R2bn water infrastructure backlog, and in a report released by the Water Research Commission shows South Africa loses 36.8% of its available municipal water before it reaches a tap. It is lost through leaks, theft and metering inaccuracies.
South Africa loses R7bn a year because of these “nonrevenue” water losses.
Mr Lloyd-Jones said business would in future need to invest in water reuse infrastructure to avoid higher taxes, imposed to raise funds for water infrastructure.
Experts have repeatedly said water is not properly priced in South Africa, leaving consumers to view it as expendable, and that water tariffs will rise in the future, in much the same way as electricity tariffs have risen in recent years.
Water reticulation equipment was “actually not that expensive in the greater scheme”, Mr Lloyd-Jones said.
“It’ll cost millions but (industrial facilities) cost multimillions and it’s not that expensive if the alternative is that you go out of business in 10 years’ time because there is no water,” he said.
Ms Colvin agreed that municipal water infrastructure was unable to cope with increasing populations, and increasing pollution. This would be exacerbated in the eastern parts of the country where rainfall would increase.
The expected increased frequency of heavy rainfall “events” would also increase pollution because the rain would flush various pollutants, including nutrients such as fertilisers and sewage, into dams and rivers. This would promote algal blooms that deplete the water’s dissolved oxygen and produce toxins that kill aquatic life and render the water toxic.
Ms Colvin said the government could do much more to protect South Africa’s headwater areas from development such as mining that would jeopardise “the engines of our water system”. In South Africa 8% of the land area generated more than 50% of the river runoff. These areas should be protected, she said.
Source: Business Day Live (By Sue Blaine)
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