Over-exploitation of water resources in South Africa

Extract from the Parched Prospects II report, written by Steve Hedden and is the African Futures Paper 16, dated March 2016:

“Summary: It is likely that South Africa is over-exploiting its water resources at the national level, as water withdrawals currently exceed reliable supply. Using the International Futures forecasting system, this paper forecasts that withdrawals in all three sectors (municipal, industrial and agricultural) will increase over the next 20 years. Proposed interventions for increasing supply and reducing demand are not enough to reconcile the gap between withdrawals and supply. More must be done to bring the South African water sector into balance and reconcile future national water withdrawals with future national supply.”

This makes for sober reading. The report looks at which sectors currently use the most water, where our water comes from, what strategies are currently in planned to increase our water supply and an analysis of the resulting data.

Unfortunately the conclusions are that even if we implement all of the increase in water supply interventions, we will still have more demand than available water come 2035. Additional strategies are required which include sustainable use of groundwater, recycling of municipal wastewaterWater Conservation, Water Use, Water, South Africa, Drought and reduction of non-revenue water losses which occur in our ailing municipal water infrastructures.

One strong fact came through surprised me, was a quote from a Water Research Commission report from 2012:  ‘when comparing the unit water use per capita, South Africa appears to have a relatively high per capita water use, which suggests consumers waste water, and there is significant scope to reduce the unit consumption’. Despite living through several recent droughts, despite being aware that we live in a water-scarce country, South Africans waste water…!? This is contrary to my previously uninformed impressions and has served as a major wake up call for me. I hope it has the same affect on you.