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Hlengiwe Cele 
Measures to save water needed as the drought persists

South Africans have been urged to adopt robust water-saving strategies in order to conserve water as the country faces the persistent drought

On Sunday, 1 November 2015, Minister Nomvula Mokonyana briefed members of the media on the persisting drought conditions in South Africa. In the briefing session it was confirmed that some parts of the country are already hard hit by this situation, mostly in the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provinces which have already been declared as drought disaster areas.  

In her speech the Minister emphasised that water-saving measures need to be encouraged amongst consumers to change behaviour and promote water use efficiency. 

About 6 500 rural communities with stand-alone supply are currently experiencing water shortages. Water shortages have extended to Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North-West provinces and the number of affected communities is likely to increase as the drought continues.

Gauteng is already using water from Lesotho to augment supply in the Vaal River system. “We have long been in crisis but, as things stand, our own planning and assessment show that we have enough water in the system and storage to guarantee supply to Gauteng in particular“, said Mokonyane. 

Ongoing discussions will see South Africa getting additional water supplies from the Zambezi via Zimbabwe in the near future.  While experiencing water scarcity, South Africa may see the application of water restrictions which are already used as water-saving measures in developed countries.

Droughts are a major feature of the climate of South Africa. As a result of the country’s location at the southern tip of Africa between cold and warm sea currents, as well as its topography, South Africa has an extremely variable climate over space and time. Because of these characteristics, the country is considered to have one of the most variable river flow regimes in the world.

To manage their water resources sustainably, municipalities need to measure their water use and continually update this information against water conservation targets. While the water conservation and water demand management efforts of many municipalities are commendable, there are still areas in South Africa where water losses are not being adequately monitored, noted Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, Water Research Commission (WRC) CEO. At present, around 37% of all water supplied to municipalities is lost.

Consumers must start appreciating the value of water.  On the other hand, municipalities must set cost-reflective tariffs and increase payment levels by the encouragement of consumer leak fixing, prosecution of illegal water connections and the reduction of water theft.

This challenge requires the whole country to be water-wise in households, the agricultural sector and businesses. Consumer behaviour can contribute a great deal towards saving water that we need as a country.  Minor changes in water use, such as cutting down on long showers and avoiding letting the water run while brushing one's teeth, do make a difference.

The WRC has invested significantly in the development of software solutions and guidelines to assist water supply authorities in understanding and managing their water losses and non-revenue water use. Municipalities are strongly encouraged to make use of these free resources to develop their water loss control plans.

Visit our Knowledge Hub www.wrc.org.za and look up for guidelines that can equip you with knowledge to save water.

Article compiled by Hlengiwe Cele, Stakeholder Liaison email: hlengiwec@wrc.org.za








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