Expert warns of water crisis by 2020

South African metropolitan areas are heading for a major water crisis by 2020, a former director general of the Department of Water Affairs has warned.

Mike Muller, who now serves as an adjunct professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and sits on the national planning commission, said at a Water and Energy Forum in Sandton this week that it was time for metropolitans to start “panicking” about their water supplies.

“I really do think in most of our metros, if we don’t panic now, if we don’t take action now, we will be in a crisis by 2020,” Muller said in comments quoted by the Saturday Star newspaper.

“We’re not going to run out of water, but there are some hot spots. EThekwini [Durban] is actually the most vulnerable metro at the moment — they’ve been living a charmed life.”

Muller said eThekwini “should” have run out of water during the Soccer World Cup and that it “should” run out of water during the UN climate-change talks this year, but the metro would “probably get away with it”.

‘We need to panic at the right time’
“We know many municipal users are not planning at all, or if they are, they’re not acting on their plans,” Muller said.

“All stakeholders must … move into action or we’re in trouble. I think we need to panic at the right time and the right time is now.”

Muller said the Vaal River system in Gauteng looked “disastrous”.

“We look as though we’re 25% short of water for the next 10 years,” Muller said.

“By the time we implement phase two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project [in 2019], we’ll have been at risk for 10 years. Guaranteed there will be a drought.”

He blamed farmers in the Vaal area for stealing water for irrigation as well as water leakage and inefficient water use.

Muller said good water management was key to growth and development.

He said environmental campaigners around acid mine drainage, actually “distract” from the main challenges around water quality and the issue was “more about” companies trying to make profits out of the tailings of the mining industry. – Sapa

How many experts have to raise the issue before something is done about the pending water crisis. Are we to wait until there is no water before we accept the facts? We cannot just blame government, although their inaction has not helped the situation. Each one of us have to shoulder some of the responsibility as well. We use water on a daily basis without a care in the world, maintaining lush gardens etc and very seldom do we look at ways to reduce our water usage. One of the main reasons for our wasteful ways is that water is still relatively inexpensive in South Africa. This cannot, and will not, continue as our water resources dwindle. Each new treatment plant costs money and it is the taxpayer that will fit the bill at the end of the day.

It is time we all started conserving water. From using grey water to irrigate our gardens, to harvesting rainwater for household use, each step we take goes toward conserving one of our most precious resources…..water.

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