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Upcoming water crisis in South Africa

For years, we have been warned that after Eskom, the next crisis in South Africa will be water, which may be much more serious than the rolling blackout that we have endured for about 14 years.

For many residents of small towns, rural areas, and cities, the emerging reality is that their own “zero day” is coming—or has already arrived.

Many cities across the country are showing signs of a breakdown in water supply services-infrastructure failures, non-payment for water services, mismanagement, and corruption, all of which endanger the operation and maintenance of water supply systems.

Why is this happening?

As a water-scarce country, South Africa is facing countless complex water problems: including aging water infrastructure, increasing water scarcity, drought, the effects of climate change, and worsening pollution risks.

This week, many residents of Johannesburg panicked during the 54-hour reduction in water supply planned by the Rand Water Company, which largely kept the water in the tap, albeit at low pressure.

Experts say that the situation in Gauteng will be much worse in the next 10 to 20 years, because the country has been hit hard by the long-term drought caused by climate change. During the 2015-16 El Niño drought, when the Val Dam fell below 25% in September 2016, the economic center was already dangerously close.

Even at that time, due to stricter water restrictions, many Johannesburg residents continued to ignore requests for water conservation, watering gardens, tidying swimming pools, and washing cars with less and less potable water.

South Africans consume more water than the global average — 234 liters per person per day — which means that the country’s per capita water consumption is higher than the global average of 173 liters.

In 2018, the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan determined that the water supply gap by 2030 will be 17%. It also acknowledges that only 64% of households have safe and reliable access to water.

At least 9% of the country’s population draws water from contaminated rivers and springs, and more than 37% of our drinking water is lost due to pipeline leaks and other infrastructure failures.

Due to pollution and destruction of river catchments, nearly half of the country’s water bodies have poor water quality.

The influx of untreated sewage into waterways from failed municipal sewage treatment projects is “horrible and common.” The South African Human Rights Commission stated that under the Disaster Management Act, this should be declared a national disaster.

The collapse of our freshwater ecosystems and the services they provide compromised their ability to regulate water flow, avoid floods, and purify the water for our drinking. Half of my country’s river flow is provided by only 10% of the land area, but most of the land is not protected. Experts say that R1 trillion is needed to recapitalize the water sector, which has largely collapsed due to mismanagement.



With information from: https://mg.co.za/editorial/2021-11-18-editorial-south-africas-next-big-crisis-is-water/

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