SA runs risk of severe water restrictions

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 07 July 2010

SA’s economic hub will run short of water should a severe drought occur in the next 10 years, as water losses have not been stemmed and new sources of supply are still 10 years away, according to a leading engineer.

Mohale Dam. The second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project will supply Gauteng only in 2020.

The second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project will supply Gauteng only in 2020, although, according to experts, SA’s major Vaal River system is already in deficit, as is the Umgeni system.

Negotiations were still under way with the government of Lesotho regarding the flagship project, the Department of Water Affairs said on Friday.

“It is expected to take more than nine years to prepare for and implement the project,” the department said. Once implemented, this second phase would be able to transfer 479-million cubic metres annually to SA.

However, until this project was completed, SA ran the risk of severe water restrictions in the event of a critical drought in the next 10 years, said engineer Dr Chris Herold, a council member of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering.

Dr Herold said there was a mismatch between water demand and new sources of supply, resulting from a failure to stem water losses in the system.

Having a deficit in the Vaal River system was an unacceptable risk to run for the next 10 years, he said. The system, which supplies Gauteng, already had a 2% supply deficit, which would progressively worsen to an 11% deficit by 2019, he said.

Water theft by farmers in the area has worsened the situation, with 175-million cubic metres taken from the Vaal River every year, increasing the supply deficit to about 8% a year.

The Umgeni River system in KwaZulu-Natal has only a 92% assuredness of supply, with a one in 13 risk of water restrictions. The rivers supply water to regions generating two-thirds of SA’s gross national product.

About 30% of water intended for domestic use was lost through leaking or burst pipes, according to industry estimates quoted by previous water affairs minister Lindiwe Hendricks . The minister announced a water conservation and demand management programme in 2007 which aimed to achieve a 15% saving in demand, by plugging leaking pipes.

Demand management, however, has to be implemented by municipalities. Many smaller municipalities are in poor shape with few or no engineers or technical staff.

Joburg Water has set aside R830m for a pipe replacement programme, with priority given to suburbs with the worst incidences of burst pipes.

Joburg Water’s chairwoman, Martie Janse van Rensburg, said water use patterns needed to change. “People need to be aware that water is scarce.” More efficient technologies should be considered, along with the reuse of water, she said.

By: Jocelyn Newmarch
Source: Business Day

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