SOUTH AFRICA: Less Water More Money

  • by Zahira Kharsany (johannesburg)
  • Monday, September 28, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

This is in light of a recent study which has shown that South Africa has less natural water resources than previously believed.

According to a report released by the Water Research Commission of South Africa, the country’s natural water resources are four percent less than measured in the last study 14 years ago.

This difference in measurement of the water supply has been attributed to improved research techniques and technologies.

Project director of the study, Brian Middleton, said if South Africa continued using and allocating water according to the higher estimates (of water resources) made in previous studies, there will simply not be enough water to meet the country’s future needs.

'The difference is small over all, but what it does mean is that the planning and managing processes and usage of water must be relooked at. The demands of the future will play an important part,' said Middleton.

This means that even though the water resources are marginally less than previously believed, the demands for water in the future will play an important role in the price of water.

'Water prices may increase and may need to so that we manage the water resources differently. If it becomes costly to move or transport water, industries may (have to) use less water or may (have to) find alternate ways of using water. (We will have to) manage our demands.'

The new water data may mean that a wide range of sectors including: agriculture, electricity generation, industry and municipalities will have to start using less water.

'How we manage demand in agriculture, forestry, industrial sectors and all other sectors must be addressed. They need to use less water and to use it efficiently,' said Middleton.

The study also found that the water quality of South Africa’s rivers is deteriorating. Middleton said that water is becoming undrinkable because of increasing incidents of sewerage spills and industrial pollution. If this continues South African’s will face greater water shortages in the future.

'The water quality in our taps is very high but the quality of the water in rivers is not,' Middleton said.

According to Middleton, there would be greater need to use more purification methods as the water quality becomes worse.

He said: 'We will need more purifying plants and better purifying systems to ensure that the water in our taps remains of a high quality. We will need to treat the water more, increasing the costs of the country.'

Middleton pointed out that groundwater (water accessed via boreholes) is used in probably 75 percent of the country — mainly in small towns and villages — while larger urban areas use mostly surface water (water found in rivers, lakes and dams).

'The study's results suggest that there is merit in considering the conjunctive use of both sources (surface and ground water). When surface water is available, we need to consider drawing on this more efficiently, allowing our groundwater reserves to build up for droughts.'

The data collected covered South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry declined to comment on the findings until they read the report.

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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