Deteriorating water quality – a greater threat than climate change

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 November 2010

SA needs to spend R360bn over the next 15 years on water treatment plants to secure its water supply.

Deteriorating water quality is arguably a greater threat to SA than climate change

The country also urgently needs to deal with acid mine drainage and invest in renewable energy, which does not pollute as much. This is according to a report released yesterday — H2O – CO2 Energy Equations for SA: Present Status, Future Scenarios and Proposed Solutions — which includes projections until 2025.

It was compiled by the Africa Earth Observatory Network, which is linked to the University of Cape Town.

The government has formed a task team to deal with acid mine drainage — the polluted water resulting from mining — but few details of its proposed solution have been made available.

According to the authors of the report, Stephanie de Villiers and Maarten de Wit, discussions about future usage of fossil fuels must also consider the environmental costs associated with coal, including the effect on water.

The report predicts water shortages of 19%-33% of SA’s requirements by 2025 — significantly higher than official estimates of 2%-13%, in part due to the effects of climate change and deteriorating water quality.

According to the National Water Resource Strategy, prepared by the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, SA’s water requirements are roughly equal to the amount of water available.

The report says SA’s surface water yield is at an estimated 82% of its maximum capacity and the strategy’s predicted future water shortages are extremely conservative estimates.

There are enormous water deficits in industrial areas, particularly in Gauteng, which uses water from Lesotho at enormous cost.

The implications of climate change for water availability are profound. Temperatures are predicted to increase by 2° C-5° C across southern Africa by 2050.

This implies that the amount of water lost to evaporation could increase by 10%-25%.

However, deteriorating water quality is arguably a greater threat to SA than climate change, the report says, and research into the state of SA’s water balance and groundwater potential should be made a national priority.

By: Jocelyn Newmarch
Source: Business Day

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