Charting Our Water Future

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems
24 November 2009

“The world is increasingly turning its attention to the issue of water scarcity. ….. by 2030 over a third of the world population will be living in river basins that will have to cope with significant water stress, including many of the countries and regions that drive global economic growth.” – This is the opening paragraph of the preface to the 2030 Water Resources Group report ‘Charting Our Water Future’.

For full Executive Summary see:


Augrabies - South Africa

The study focuses on how, by 2030, competing demands for scarce water resources can be met and sustained. It shows that in many regions current supply will be inadequate to meet their water requirements, but also shows that meeting all competing demands for water is in fact possible at reasonable cost.

According to the report by 2030 global water requirements will grow by 40 percent and there is every reason to believe that the water sector will not land on an efficient solution that is environmentally sustainable and economically viable. The impacts of global climate change on local water availability could exacerbate the problem in many countries.

The picture is complicated by the fact that there is no single water crisis. Different countries, even in the same region, face very different problems. The study focuses on three countries and one region challenged by dramatically different water issues: China; India; South Africa; and, the state of São Paulo in Brazil. In 2030, these countries collectively will account for 30 percent of world GDP and 42 percent of projected global water demand.

In South Africa demand is projected at 17.7 billion m3 with household demand accounting for 34 percent of the total, and it is severely constrained by low rainfall, limited underground aquifers, and reliance on significant water transfers from neighbouring countries. South Africa will have to resolve tough trade-offs between agriculture, key industrial activities such as mining and power generation, and large and growing urban centres.

Most solutions imply cross-sectoral trade-offs. The economic centres of Johannesburg and Cape Town are dominated by industrial and domestic solutions. Seven river sub-basins in South Africa are almost entirely dependent on agricultural improvements. Planning for water must be integrative with directions of the whole economy, whether explicitly constrained by water considerations or not.

Business-as-usual in the water sector is no longer an option for most countries. The beginnings of change are under way and there is good reason to believe that water will be an important investment theme for public, multilateral and private financial institutions in the coming decades.

The case for prioritizing country-wide changes in water resources management has never been as strong. The challenges that lie ahead are considerable for many countries.

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