World Water Day in SA to change perceptions

Cape Town – As World Water Day approaches, the department of water affairs and host city Cape Town are determined to change perceptions about water as a scarce resource.

This year the theme of Water Day on March 22 will focus on how urbanisation puts pressure on water and sanitation services. In SA, though, the problem is compounded by “legacy issues”, according to the City of Cape Town.

“We have various legacy issues: There has been inadequate maintenance and we’ve reached the point where there’s no lead time. We’ve consumed 52% of our water infrastructure – that’s a challenge,” director of water and sanitation services Lungile Dlamini told News24.

He also said that there were serious funding shortfalls for maintenance of the water network.

“Our funding shortfall is about 1.7% of the operating budget whereas the international best practice is 7% of operational budget. Our tariffs do not enable us to fund the services we provide.”

‘Green’ energy

A further challenge is that water is being lost because of the age of the networks and Dlamini said he was concerned about how strategies are translated into action.

There are plans to put more focus on “green” energy into pumping water, and this was already being investigated with a view for implementation, said Dlamini.

“Climate change is a spanner in the works, and we have to be mindful of the energy input when we pump water. We’re looking at harvesting the methane gas at our treatment plants to make them self-sufficient,” he said.

Water development is key to the growth of the country in general and the province in particular, and there is co-operation of all spheres of government to create sustainable plans for water management.

“The province has developed the integrated water management action plan to meet growth and development needs for the province,” said Dr Joy Leaner, of the Western Cape provincial government.

In terms of provisioning water into the future, Dlamini said that water is not an infinite resource and that the purpose of the Water Day campaign was to raise awareness and change mindsets about water usage.

“In our long-term planning, we will be able to meet demand [for water] up until 2016 to 2019, all things being equal. By 2016, alternative water resources should be at an advanced stage.”

One of the ideas being actively investigated was a desalinisation plant at Silverstroom, near Atlantis in the province.

“We’re also looking at raising some of the dam walls. That has a short lead time so we can do it quickly. We are already using 20% of our effluent water for irrigation purposes, but it’s not for drinking water,” said Dlamini.

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