Our water woes (continued)
Although the dams in the northern parts of South Africa are reported to be reasonably full after good summer rains, experts advise that we should guard against complacency. We are reminded of the 2104 prediction that South Africa was due for the largest maize harvest since 1981. It was predicted that the harvest would be in excess of 14 million tons. However in 2015/16 we experienced the worst drought since 1992 and we had to import maize. After the recent rains we have harvested maize that produced 40% excess maize that we require. Solomon’s wisdom tells us that due to our flawed prediction in 2014 and the subsequent devastating drought we should be seriously considering storing the excess for the next drought season. After all the predictions are that due to climate change, we will soon be experiencing an El Nino weather pattern that will be more severe than the previous one. However, the Minister of Agriculture, Senzeni Zokwana said “ Yes we are thinking about it” when asked about storing excess maize instead of exporting it.
This gives us a clue of government’s thinking when it comes to long- term drought planning strategies. It does seem as though we have still not realized the urgency of developing a long- term strategy to prepare us for climate change that will inevitably affect rainfall patterns. Despite several enquiries regarding future long-term plans to conserve our water resources none were forthcoming from the relevant government departments. This is indeed alarming.
We should be on a war footing given the fact that have just survived the worst drought for decades and scientific evidence indicate that rainfall patterns are changing and that the weather will become more and more difficult to predict.
In previous editions we reported on immediate remedies that could be implemented to conserve our water reserves. For example:
- We reported that research has shown that water leaks account for about 37% loss of water throughout the country. Government accepted this information and promises were made to rectify the leaks. What we cannot report is what action has been taken to rectify this serious problem. Various checks indicate that leaks are still a serious problem.
- Evidence has been presented to government regarding mining and industrial pollution and the damage
it does to our water resources. We have yet to see significant reversals of these threats.
- Research has been presented to government indicating that rooftop harvesting of rainwater will significantly conserve our water reserves. Yet very little has been done to encourage this method of water conservation.
- According to expert evidence and credible research that has been provided to government regarding the feasibility of desalinating sea- water. Three complete feasibility studies for desalination plants for South African cities of Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth have already been submitted. The full study shows that desalination plants could provide around a tenth of the water supply in the Cape.
The above are but a few of the water conservation solutions that can be implemented in the short term. However very little has been done by government to address these easily is displaying enthusiasm implemented solutions. If there is urgency the general public is not being made aware of it.
Over the past few years many conferences and summits have been held in South Africa to discuss ways and means of addressing the serious impact climate change will have on our water resources. South Africa has as usual the most delegates attending these conferences and summits. However we have yet to witness any significant announcements on what solutions the government will be implementing to improve our water conservation. More alarming is the absence of long-term strategic planning that will ensure that South Africa is ready to meet the water needs of its citizens. In September this year (12 to 14) local and international representatives from the environmental sector will meet at the Johannesburg Expo Centre for the second edition of IFAT Africa. The objective of the conference will be to “Finding ways out of the water crisis”. This is a follow up event to IFAT Environmental Technology Forum Africa, that took place in 2015. The event will focus on water, sewage, refuse and the current water crisis. This event will offer a platform for discussing solutions to the water problems we are facing and presenting the relevant solutions with the relevant technologies.
We urge the government to take the water crisis more seriously and urgently address the vexing problem of conserving our water resources in order to meet the needs of our people. South Africans are expecting the leadership to discharge its constitutional mandate to provide clean water for its citizens.