Alarm bells for water

Alarm bells are ringing louder as stakeholders expressed concern last week that South Africa would experience a critical water shortage by 2050 if innovative programmes were not put in place urgently.

Industry insiders said the country would “run dry” by then if measures to curb the problem were not implemented urgently. Also, the agricultural sector would have to find more innovative ways to reduce water usage while maintaining a significant level of food production.

Some experts pointed out that even though South Africa was a water scarce country, millions of kilolitres were wasted every month due to poor municipal infrastructure.

Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Rejoice Mabudafhasi said independent research revealed that by 2050 there would be no water left if changes were not made. However, she said the department had programmes in place for water conservation and water harvesting, which could help avoid “the catastrophe of not having water by 2050”. The agricultural sector uses the largest quantity of water, consuming 60 percent of the water that is used economically. However, this was still less than the international norm, which stands at 63 percent to 65 percent of national use, according to the research.

AgriSA president Johannes Moller said about 25 percent of farm production relied on irrigation. It was labour intensive and generated employment. “If you take that away we could lose 25 percent of food production.”

DA spokeswoman Marti Wenger said an average of 44 million kilolitres of water was lost every year through transmission leakage in Limpopo. A cause for concern was that water losses represented 66.5 percent of total use. “The water supplied is 17.5 percent of the water demanded. If 66.5 percent of the supply is being lost, the truth is that actual delivery represents 5.9 percent of the total demanded. This situation is untenable at best,” Wenger said.

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