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South Africa on the brink of a water management crisis?

 

Every South African is aware of the energy crisis which has gripped our country in the last eighteen months. The lack of planning and implementation of new projects to meet the increased demands of our growing economy has created a crisis whose effects have been felt by our entire society as a whole. It has also made the finite nature of our natural resources known to every consumer. Together with the current recession, this crisis has prompted many consumers to investigate eco-friendly products and services.

 

 

Every South African is aware of the energy crisis which has gripped our country in the last eighteen months. The lack of planning and implementation of new projects to meet the increased demands of our growing economy has created a crisis whose effects have been felt by our entire society as a whole. It has also made the finite nature of our natural resources known to every consumer. Together with the current recession, this crisis has prompted many consumers to investigate eco-friendly products and services.

 

What most South Africans don't realise is that our country is currently on the brink of a new crisis. This time the stakes are much higher and the potential for disaster is more significant because the potential crisis involves a resource critical to maintaining life. This resource is water. 

 

water pipe

 

 

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.  ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

 

 

 

The 1 October 2009 edition of FIN Week has alerted many of us, for the first time, to a new potential crisis looming for our economy.  There is a critical lack of water infrastructure, which is poised to affect every South African in the next five years. The belief that there was plenty of time to address these concerns has now been challenged, making environmental awareness and concern critical issues for the average consumer. Experts have been warning that a substantial commitment to the environment can no longer be a matter of choice. It is now a matter of urgent necessity.

The lack of services and resources has always been a significant problem for a number of disadvantaged communities. Many urban communities have seen the lack of access to clean water as a problem that is limited to these disadvantaged rural communities, but the FIN Week article has revealed that this problem will affect communities across the board in both rural and urban areas.

"Our challenge here is not so much to (create new sources) as it is to alter the way we think and act on how we use our water." - Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica.

Government have begun to publicly acknowledge the extent of the crisis. Reports predict that in the same way Government failed to plan effectively for the development of the electrical infrastructure to keep pace with our economic growth over the last decade, similarly developing and maintaining our water management infrastructure has also been neglected. The perception that we had plenty of time to address these issues has been shattered by Greta Steyn's article. "The Vaal River System-which sustains half of South Africa's gross national product-may run into deficit by 2013 if the necessary steps to reduce demand aren't taken now. The assumption by Government is that water demand will be reduced by 15% by 2013, but to date there has been no discernable reduction."

Water management statistics show that 98% of South Africa's current water supply is already allocated. Given that developing economies consume and demand much higher levels of water than developed economies, the future of our economic growth and development is now in jeopardy. Many consumers are unaware of the large volumes of water required by industry and with rapid industrialisation comes rapid urbanisation. This then leads to an increased demand for water across the board as a larger urban population increases demand for manufactured products. While Government has made great strides in terms of providing disadvantaged communities with access to water, evidence shows that the quality of the water provided has drastically declined. Water borne diseases such as typhoid and cholera are becoming a potential health crisis which will affect larger parts of our population.

Research has also come to light that only 15% of our current waste water treatment works are complying with the required standards and additional pressure on the system will result in a potential crisis. For many urban water consumers the challenges faced by the poor and disadvantaged have been issues we expressed concern over, but ones which we never expected to experience. However severe water shortages will dramatically affect each and every South African equally. Wasting clean water has become unacceptable in light of these statistics. 

 

 water

 

Many consumers are motivated to make significant changes to their lifestyle in order to become a part of the solution. However there are so many ways to become involved in ecologically friendly projects, that this often becomes confusing and frustrating. For the average homeowner there are a number of ways to significantly reduce the amount of water your household consumes. One of the most effective allows you to save between 20 to 50% on your outdoor water bills. If each homeowner considered using a smart water management system South Africans could save a massive 240 trillion litres of water each year. By reducing the pressure on our municipalities we will buy precious time to meet the challenges required to deliver safe drinking water to all our citizens.

The challenge to create a sustainable world which will support future generations is now ours. There are many ways to protect our environment and enjoy the many benefits that gardens and gardening, parks and recreation spaces bring to society, while still making a significant contribution to reducing water consumption. There are a number of articles on the Wetec website offering advice and solutions to the ecological challenges each South African faces. Become a part of the solution and contribute to building a beautiful and sustainable future for every community. 

 

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