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Water theft contributes to SA’s increasing crisis

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 08 March 2011

Massive water theft by farmers from the Vaal River, and the inability of municipalities to maintain infrastructure, are two of the main causes that will push South Africa into a water crisis in less than a decade.

By 2013, water demand on the Vaal River system will outstrip the available yield

A paper by the South African Institute of Civil Engineering water division chairman, Dr Chris Herold, alleges that farmers steal about 175-million cubic metres of water from the Vaal, contributing to a significant reduction in the river’s yield.

“The water demands on the Vaal River have long exceeded the assured yield of the catchment. It has been publicly stated that by 2013, the water demand on the Vaal River system will outstrip the available yield,” Herold said.

“What is not commonly known is that this is based on achieving a 15% saving in water demand. To date no noticeable saving has been realised.”

This implies that we are already living with a 2% supply deficit in the Vaal system, and by 2013 we will face a 6% supply deficit, which would rise continually until 2019, when it would reach a staggering 11%, said the paper.

Compounding the problem is water lost through infrastructure leakage, which has reached crisis proportions as municipalities are consistently failing to meet water demand management targets.

“In addition to the lack of achievement of water demand management, and maintenance targets by local authorities, the collapse of water supply and sanitation infrastructure is well into crisis mode in many, if not most, rural areas,” the paper says.

“Undue vacillation on the part of municipal decision makers appears to have played a major role in the failure to achieve water demand management,” said the paper.

“Not only has this placed national water supply systems at risk for years, it is also extremely short-sighted given the large economic advantage to be gained from curtailing the water losses.”

The Department of Water Affairs imports water – albeit at a premium – from the Lesotho highlands to supplement water flowing into the Vaal and to dilute pollution.

But Garfield Krige, a water expert at African Environmental Development, said: “We are using tomorrow’s water today to clean up the mess by the mines.”

By: Sipho Masondo
Source: Times Live

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