It is predicted that, in the next five years, water demand could outstrip supply in South Africa, says Nedbank Sustainability Carbon Specialist Dr Marco Lotz.
With increasing population numbers and urbanisation, the debate regarding the amount of investment in water and the possibility of future water load- shedding is becoming more prominent.
Lotz notes that South Africa receives less than half of the earth’s average amount of water, at 492 mm p/y, classifying South Africa as a water-stressed country.
“Just like a carbon footprint, a water footprint is also incurred by everybody, as each product we buy or use has a water impact – for example, a hamburger utilises 2 400 litres of water to produce. We need to raise consumer awareness on the water footprint of each individual, which will hopefully result in people acting responsibly.”
He points out that South Africa’s water loss is about R7.2-billion a year and according to the United Nations Environment Programme, if current global consumption and production patterns remain the same, with a rising population expected to reach 9.6-billion, the earth will need three planets to sustain its way of life by 2050.
“Ninety-eight per cent of all current available water in South Africa is already allocated to users and it is generally accepted that future climate change will reduce the availability of water in South Africa,” Lotz says.
He notes that this is especially true for the western part of the country, whereas the eastern part will generally become wetter.
“Unfortunately, the increased rainfall in the eastern part of South Africa does not imply that we can easily capture, harness or pump the water to areas where it is more needed,” Lotz notes.
Alien invasive plant-clearing projects will significantly assist in increasing the country’s available water, but these projects can unfortunately be very expensive and financially prohibitive for a single landowner to pursue.
South Africa’s water infrastructure is also under pressure, as ageing potable water infrastructure leads to a high percentage of water loss during water distribution.
“The state of sewage plants is less than desirable and, unfortunately, frequently makes the news because of challenges such as poor maintenance,” he states. Silting in some dams also urgently need attention and maintenance to be able to keep storing water.
He says an increase in the water price is one way to fund a lot of the water infrastructure requirements, but could lead to unforeseen consequences, as vulnerable communities could struggle to pay for water.
“Nonpayment for water, as is the case for electricity, could lead to a lack of secured revenue. The result is that higher water prices will be of little value if the end-user does not pay. This will lead to an emotional and possible human rights issue if people do not have sufficient access to water,” Lotz points out.
He adds that South Africa has more people who require access to water, owing to its developmental needs, as more people migrate to urbanised parts of the country.
Lotz says areas, such as Gauteng, need massive amounts of water to be pumped, owing to these areas being geographically elevated and their direct local supply not being able to keep up with demand.
Without sufficient electricity supply, he notes, the limited amount of stored water will run out quickly. The implication is that a electricity shortage could negatively impact secured water supply.
He cites that the price increases of water will either be gazetted nationally or some municipal guidance will be provided, adding that government needs to increase water efficiency in supply and demand.
“The national and municipal water infrastructure spend also needs to be increased and the prohibitive bylaws and legislation needs to be addressed to alleviate possible water shortages,” he concludes.
Edited by: Samantha Herbst Creamer Media Deputy Editor