Water loss of 1.58 billion k/l per year is enough to fill a third of the Gariep Dam.
South Africa is losing the equivalent of 4.3 million swimming pools of water a year because of leaky pipes and theft, The Sunday Times reported.
According to the newspaper, a Water Research Commission (WRC) study had indicated that South Africa lost 1.58 billion kilolitres of water a year, or just under 132m k/l a month.
This was enough water to fill a third of the Gariep Dam, the largest in South Africa.
The water loss reportedly cost South Africa around R7.2bn a year.
WRC water use and waste management executive manager Jay Bhagwan told the newspaper the problem was caused by ageing infrastructure and the prioritisation of new infrastructure over maintenance.
The council estimated that 15% of water loss was caused by theft.
The Sunday Times quoted water affairs department spokesperson Linda Page as saying the government was concerned about water loss.
“South Africa is a water scarce country. Water losses have been identified as a risk to sustainable water supply into the future, especially at local government level,” she said.
She told the newspaper the maintenance of infrastructure had also been substandard.
There is not enough fresh water in South Africa to go around, and experts say water availability is the most important factor limiting agricultural production — yet farmers are often their own worst enemies when it comes to water management.
South Africa’s water problems are exacerbated by small farm dams with high surface area to volume ratios.
It is projected that South Africa could run out of water by 2025 — and in Gauteng, Africa and South Africa’s economic hub, by as early as 2015. More than 95% of the country’s available fresh water was already allocated by 2005.
“We’ve had a huge scare with electricity prices, but I think water is also unreasonably priced (too low),” says Jeanne Nel, a biodiversity and ecosystems services scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
While farmers are not solely to blame, agriculture is allocated the largest portion of South Africa’s available fresh water, with about 63% going to irrigation. This is sobering when it is considered that only 12% of South Africa’s landmass is considered arable and only 3% “truly fertile”. Only 1.5% of the land is under irrigation, producing 30% of the country’s crops.
“In the face of the far more obvious negative impacts that mining and industrial use and pollution have (on the environment), farmers often get away with a lot,” says Dr Nel. “Farming’s effects are a lot more insidious. If you keep drawing up water all the time, that does not create a big change all at once, but it can create a huge problem. We do need to put it into context — there are good and bad mining practices just as there are good and bad farming practices.” Continue reading
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
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
There is no food security without water security
Drought in some parts of the world has hurt global grain production and contributed to food price spikes virtually every other year since 2007, highlighting the need to transform the way water is used – and wasted – throughout the entire food chain.
This is one of the key messages that the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (“FAO”) is transmitting this week at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. The annual event brings policy makers and experts from around the globe together to discuss pressing issues related to water and its management.
In a speech made today at the Week’s opening ceremony, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva stressed that “there is no food security without water security,” noting that FAO’s recent report, The State of Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture, warns that water scarcity and pollution are posing a growing risk to key food production systems around the world.
“Agriculture, as we practice it today, is one of the causes of this phenomenon, as it represents 70% of all freshwater uses,” said Graziano da Silva.
But, he also noted, the food production sector also offers tremendous potential for changing how the world uses water. Continue reading