Water resources are reeling under increasing pressure

By: Edna Molewa – Minister of water and environmental affairs

The challenge of managing our water resources requires proactive solutions, especially with the reality of climate change on our doorstep. In addition to this grim reality, there is a need to address pressing issues of equity in an environment in which the country’s water resources are reeling under increasing pressure in terms of abstraction, habitat destruction and pollution.

Of our 223 river ecosystem types, 60% are threatened and 25% critically endangered.

This is a complex physical, social and economic matrix and our recently published second edition of the national water resources strategy aims to address it. It sets out the strategic direction for water resources management in South Africa over the next 20 years and has a practical emphasis on what needs to happen in the short term – five years. It provides the framework for the protection, use, development, conservation, management and control of water resources for South Africa, as well as the framework in which water must be managed at catchment level in defined water-management areas.

The water sector has undergone major change since the dawn of democracy in 1994 and since then we have developed a remarkable body of policy and legislation, which has been acclaimed all over the globe for its progressive and ground-breaking nature.

But we cannot escape the reality that the implementation of the new policy and legislation has been slow, particularly in terms of equity and redress in access to water and sanitation. Although the provision of safe domestic water supplies has reached 95% of the population, showing remarkable strides since 1994, the allocation and reallocation of raw water to historically disadvantaged communities for productive purposes has not progressed as it should. The number of people without adequate services is still too large, particularly among the poor. Continue reading

Electricity production places water resources at risk

Coal mining is of particular risk to ground water resources

An environmental report has found that the use of water in electricity production is having a negative impact on the water resources for the country and may have long-term detrimental effects.

The Water Hungry Coal: Burning South Africa’s water to produce electricity report produced by environmental organisation Greenpeace argues that the use of coal to produce electricity has resulted in an unsustainable outlook for South Africa’s water.

“Ironically, burning coal to produce electricity is an incredibly water intensive process, with a number of serious implications for both water quantity and quality,” Greenpeace said.

In Eskom’s latest system status bulletin, the utility says that peak demand on Monday was 31 366MW which it met through running at near capacity of 34 250MW.

The utility has been under strain this year as it has been forced to conduct maintenance while avoiding the rolling blackouts that crippled the country in 2008.

“The demand is increasing and we have not invested early enough,” Eskom CEO Brian Dames told News24. “Some of our power plants are 30 and 35 years old; they have to be maintained.” Continue reading

Water resources survey

A project aimed at improving understanding of South Africa’s water resources will begin in April, the Water Research Commission said on Wednesday.

South Africa is a water stressed country

The Water Resources of South Africa 2012 study would bridge the 10-year gap between the commission’s other hydrological surveys, research manager Wandile Nomquphu said in a statement.

This was necessary because South Africa was a “water-stressed country, with accelerated demands, in which rainfall is highly variable with real threats of climate change impacts”.

Constantly updated information was needed to assess the quantity and quality of the country’s water, and measure climate change.

Certain aspects of water quality and ground water measurements would be included in the survey, which would inform the national water resource strategy.

– Sapa

Culprits of unlawful water usage

“Whilst unlawful water use by some irrigators is a concern that should be addressed, various other factors pose an even bigger threat to the availability and sufficiency of good quality water to society. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the irrigation sector was singled out as culprit with the launch of the National Water Week,” says Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA.

The quality of various water systems in South Africa is in a poor condition.

The Department of Water Affairs had since the enactment of the National Water Act in 1998 failed to implement sections of this legislation pertaining to the institutional capacity required to manage the country’s water resources.

“After 12 years the department only started in June 2010 with the verification and validation processes by appointing a professional service provider to assist them in addressing unlawful water use in the Vaal River system. This will only be completed in two years time,” Möller says. Continue reading

Africa’s water could rescue the continent from climate change

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 28 Nov 2011

The African continent is the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its dependence on rain-fed agriculture but can harness the potential for hydropower, said Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa on Monday.

Africa currently uses only 10% of its hydropower potential

“The challenge for Africa is to decouple economic and social development from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation to an extent which has no precedent in the developed world,” said Molewa, who is leading the SA’s negotiation team at COP17 in Durban.

Water shortages caused by climate change threaten agriculture and human health in Africa, she said. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted yields from rain-fed agriculture to shrink by half by 2020.

“This will spell famine for many,” she said.

Water shortages have already affected the agriculture and livestock industries in Kenya, she said, and African nations that currently have water surpluses will shift to water scarcity before 2025.

But Africa’s water resources could also rescue the continent from the effects of climate change in the form of renewable energy, she said. The continent currently uses only 10% of its hydropower potential.

“A national, regional and international effort towards unlocking this potential is an example of how African societies could go from being amongst the most vulnerable to become climate resilient,” she said.

Molewa repeated the SA government’s support of the “polluter pays principle”, imploring developed nations to fund green projects in developing nations, since they are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Africa contributes only 4% of global GHG emissions, but SA is responsible for almost half of that.

Molewa also highlighted the Africa Pavilion at COP17, which presents opportunities for green-development projects on the continent.

The effects of climate change on Africa are “unacceptable” and climate-change talks must “produce a credible, fair, equitable and balanced outcome” in the coming weeks.

Source: Business Live