After the recent visit to the Waterberg district, in Limpopo, President Cyril Ramaphosa was left pondering about the state of South Africa’s water supply.
The facts about South Africa’s water supply
The president was in Limpopo to launch the third District Development Model, a practical action plan to address service delivery issues.
In engaging with the residents, Ramaphosa realised that access to water was still a problem in many parts of South Africa. This, he said in his statement, was not due to any lack — on the government’s part — of effort to supply water.
“South Africa is a severely water stressed country. We do not have mighty rivers that flow all season like in other parts of Africa and the world,” he said.
Ramaphosa noted that according to research, South Africa is the 30th driest country in the world. On one end, this has a lot to do with rapid climate change; and on the other, an unstable water infrastructure.
“A decade-long drought has put immense pressure on our water systems and has had a devastating impact on agriculture and communities, especially in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga,” the president added.
Furthermore, dam levels are currently on average around 58%, compared to 69% for the same time last year. and South Africa only receives an average annual rainfall of 500mm compared to a global average of 860mm.
Ramaphosa: Billions needed to fix this problem
To prevent a catastrophic situation in the future, where water shortages worsen, plunging into a state worse than our current energy supply problem, South Africans will have to work together with government on preventative measures.
According to Ramaphosa, the amazing work done by the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), Working for Water and other civil organisations is not enough.
“Domestic users must use water more sparingly and reduce their consumption. Municipalities must invest in water recycling technologies that save both water and money. Industrial users must implement measures towards water use efficiency,” he said.
These are the measures being taken, currently, to address water shortages:
Relief projects (led by NDMC), like emergency borehole drilling and water tankers, are in place in affected areas, and demand is being managed through water restrictions and rationing;municipalities are also installing bulk meters at reservoirs, repairing leaks and burst pipes, throttling water outlets at night to replenish reservoir supplies, and upgrading existing water treatment works;government provided R260-million in response to the drought and offered 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; andresearch technologies such as evaporation suppression, fog harvesting and cloud seeding will be key to prevent future water shortages.
“To ensure our future water security, we will need funding of at least R126-billion for infrastructure. With existing freshwater supplies dwindling, we will be focusing on projects that broaden our water resource mix,” Ramaphosa said.
This, he said, would come in handy in prioritising:
Phase 1 of the uMkhomazi Water Project;the Groot Letaba Water Augmentation Project in Limpopo; andthe Mzimvubu Water Project in the Eastern Cape.