20 November 2012

South Africa: More Must Be Done to Secure Water Supply

Johannesburg — While South Africa has no crisis in terms of water security, the country had to put in the necessary effort to prevent severe shortages that could lead to serious social and economic challenges, the Department of Water Affairs said Thursday.

"We don't have a crisis; we have a lot of options but those options require effort and money so the more we manage out water effectively, the better for all of us," said the department's Director for National Water Resource Strategy, Fred Van Zyl, in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

He was speaking on the side-lines of a conference to explain the country's water resource strategy approved by Cabinet earlier this year. The gathering is being attended by representatives from the private sector, civil society, government officials and the agricultural sector.

The national water resource strategy, released recently by Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, warns that South Africa was "at risk" if water was not taken seriously and interventions not applied timeously.

It points to the need to protect fresh water sources, while improving the management of water across key economic development centres like Gauteng, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal.

Van Zyl said part of the solution was to impose restrictions on irrigation, tighten laws that govern water management and explore the possibility of sea water desalination. The latter, however, proved too expensive but it was something that South Africa needed to explore.

There was a need to invest strongly in water infrastructure in Gauteng, the major economic activities and mining.

Evidence showed that if something was not done to improve the management of water, South Africa could experience serious water shortages as early as 2020.

"We can have to reuse where we can, we can do desalination...we can do a lot of things and research shows that we have to move to that direction and the most important thing is we need money," added Van Zyl.

The department would be urging stakeholders attending the conference to place water management at the centre of their water plans.

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