Home Opinion and Features SA’s water shortage to get worse in 2025

SA’s water shortage to get worse in 2025

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As if load shedding was not enough to bring businesses to its knees, South Africans are now confronted with water shortages, with the situation expected to get worse in 2025.

South Africa is approaching physical water scarcity in 2025, with the country expected to experience a water deficit of 17% by 2030, while climate change will worsen the situation. File picture

AS IF LOAD shedding was not enough to bring businesses to its knees, South Africans are now confronted with water shortages, with the situation expected to get worse in 2025.

A December 2023 report by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) found that several water supply systems were operating close to or beyond their design capacity, and monitoring and compliance were severely deficient.

The report also stated that this made fixing problems impossible as the scale of the issues at stake was not being identified.

But this was nothing new, as ESI Africa reported in 2020 that: “South Africa is approaching physical water scarcity in 2025 where the country is expected to experience a water deficit of 17% by 2030, and climate change will worsen the situation.”

The effects of the water deficit are now being felt by Johannesburg residents who sometimes go a few days without water.

According to the DWS: “South Africa’s water security is threatened by a decrease in water supply due to negative impact on yields arising from climate change, degradation of wetlands and water resources, siltation of dams, whilst water losses and demand are escalating due to population and economic growth, urbanisation, inefficient use, and changing lifestyles.”

However, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) stated in their recent report that one of South Africa’s most prominent water issues was that most people don’t have enough knowledge on how to preserve it.

Research carried out by the Institute for Security Studies found that: “South Africans use more water than the global average. South Africans currently use 234 litres of water per person daily, and the country’s per capita water consumption is higher than the global average of 173 litres. South Africans need to learn how to conserve water if they wish to avoid water scarcity.

“This can be done through tiered pricing, where users are charged when they consume a higher rate than what is considered necessary for daily activities. Other ways include having incentives for consumers to consider purchasing water-efficient appliances and go above and beyond to find ways to use less water,” read the DBSA report.

The DWS 2023 audit report found that the quality of the country’s drinkable water was getting worse. Nearly half (46%) of all water supply systems pose acute human health risks because of bacteria or other pathogens in the drinking water supply.

The report also found that more than two thirds (67.6%) of all wastewater treatment works are close to failure. On top of this it showed that over 47% of all clean and treated water was lost through leaks, or could not be accounted for.

“Water supply systems are in “poor and critical condition”. Almost half of all water supply systems (46%) do not comply with microbiological standards. In these water supply systems, drinking water is contaminated by sewage and bacteria. Viruses and parasites such as Legionella and Cyanobacteria may have grown in the piped water systems and or water sources,” read the report.

Making it worse, the report highlighted that more than half of the country’s municipalities (57%) do not notify water users when they discover that the water has been contaminated.

This placed citizens at risk of contracting water-borne illnesses and is an unacceptable practice due to the possible serious health repercussions of drinking contaminated water.

Associate professor and water management expert Anja du Plesis from Unisa stated on The Conversation: “The poor drinking water quality, lack of monitoring and unaccountability needed to receive immediate attention because of the human health risks involved.

“We cannot afford another tragic case such as Hammanskraal in South Africa’s Gauteng province, where 31 people died of cholera in May 2023 after drinking contaminated municipal water,” wrote Du Plessis.

Approached for comment, DWS spokesperson Kamogelo Magotsi said the department would respond to questions from the publication, but had not done so by the time of publication.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Water and Sanitation said on Thursday that it expected to meet with Gauteng municipalities to further engage on plans to address water pollution on Monday next week in Pretoria.

“Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, together with Deputy Ministers David Mahlobo and Judith Tshabalala will meet with the Cities of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane, as well as Mogale City Local Municipality to engage on the plans to address pollution affecting the Upper Crocodile and Upper Vaal Rivers,” read the statement.

The ministry stated that the discussions would address the performance and capacity of the municipalities’ wastewater treatment works, general catchment management that includes waste and stormwater management that have an impact on water quality.

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