Is South Africa facing a devastating water crisis?

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Is South Africa facing a water crisis of epic proportions? According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, if the necessary steps of conserving water sources are not taken, water insecurity will become the biggest developmental and economic challenge facing this country.

In his weekly newsletter on Monday, December 2, Ramaphosa highlights how the decade-long drought has put immense pressure on the country’s water system; while having a devastating impact on agriculture and communities; especially in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga.

Painting a bleak picture on the current state of affairs regarding water, Ramaphosa explains dam levels are on average about 58%. This is compared with 69% from 2018, which reflects the severity of the water crisis.

South Africa’s annual rainfall of 500mm compared with a global average of 860mm, places SA as the world’s 30th driest country.

Touching on this, Ramaphosa highlights how SA is a water-stressed country, which lacks vast flowing rivers like other parts of Africa and the rest of the world.

Furthermore, he emphasises how the existing water systems are over-exploited from an increase in usage. The increase in usage is due to population growth, alongside more homes being connected to water. Combining this with the ever-worsening effects of climate change, Ramaphosa says we as South Africans are clearing facing a dilemma of epic proportions.

Read more: South Africa’s temperature on the rise due to climate change

With water security playing an integral role in ensuring the well-being of mankind, its fellow creatures, as well as being critical to our economy, the state is putting in measures in an attempt to avoid a situation where water is not available in the country.

The measures the government has put in place include:

• Instructing the water permit office to reduce the waiting time for water licences.

• The National Disaster Management Centre is coordinating measures to alleviate the impact of the drought. Relief projects, like emergency borehole drilling and water tankers, are in place in affected areas, and demand is being managed through water restrictions and rationing.

• Providing R260 million in response to the drought. Even offering support to farmers to purchase fodder, reticulate water for livestock and for dam desilting.

• Disaster Management is working with provinces and municipalities to see how they can reprioritise their budgets for relief and recovery.

• Accountability will also be enforced where governance issues persist. Where water losses are mounting as a result of billing errors, unauthorised usage and outright theft, if at a municipal level or not, accountability will be enforced as part of restoring integrity to the sector.

While the government is looking at ways to save the country’s water supply, Ramaphosa is calling on all South Africans to their part as well.

This will include domestic users using water more sparingly, while industrial users must implement measures towards water use efficiency. Municipalities are also being encouraged to invest in water recycling technologies which save both water and money.

As the government attempts to avert the looming water crisis, what are your thoughts on the situation? Do you feel there is more we as a country can do to save our water supply? What do you believe should be done to save water?

Share your views and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

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