South Africa ‘must conserve water’

21 May 2013

South Africa’s plans for a water-secure future are in place, says Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, but will require all South Africans to play their part in conserving water.

Briefing the media before her budget vote in Parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday, Molewa said South Africa was not running out of water as speculated in some media reports.

“Our strategic plans are sound and geared towards a sustainable future water security, but they require that each one of us make their small contribution at every turn to guarantee a water-secure future for generations to come.”

There were no immediate plans to introduce water restrictions to control the use and distribution of water resources, Molelwa said, but added that the situation was being monitored and that restrictions could be introduced if necessary.

Water wastage ‘serious’

Water losses in South Africa were “indeed serious. That’s why we are calling on the nation to save water,” the minister said, adding that South Africa was losing up to 36% of its drinking water through leaking pipes, dripping taps and illegal water usage.

The agricultural sector was also a big water user. A strategy to adapt, change and reduce the water usage in this sector was ready, Molewa said.

According to the country’s latest census, conducted in October 2011, the number of households access to piped (tap) water in South Africa rose from 84.4% in 2001 to 91.2% in 2011.

Nearly half, or 46.3%, of the country’s households have tap water inside their homes (up from 32.3% in 2001), according to census 2011, while 27.1% have tap water inside their yards (down from 29%), 11.7% have tap water on their community stand less than 200 metres from their homes (up from 10.7%), and 6.2% have to walk more than 200 metres to reach tap water on their community stand (down from 12.4%).

Water infrastructure

Molewa said the department was facing the twin challenge of reaching the rest of the population missing out on access to water, and that of repairing infrastructure problems.

The department would focus on the functionality of municipal infrastructure and sustainable service delivery in 2013/14, because “improving the skills bases in the water sector is vital to the success of our efforts and ensuring security of supply”.

During 2011/12, South Africa’s water boards had reduced the debt of municipalities to R1.3-billion. The boards generated R10.5-billion from water sales in 2011/12, paying their own operational costs and investing R2.1-billion in infrastructure development. A further R3.3-billion was now being invested.

On infrastructure development, Molelwa said the Komati Water Augment Project, which provides water to Eskom’s Duva and Matla power stations, had been finished, while the De Hoop Dam in Limpopo province was nearing completion, and significant progress had been made on construction of the Spring Grove Dam in KwaZulu-Natal.

In North West province, the first phase of the R1.2-billion Pilanesberg scheme was being implemented in partnership with the mines to provide a further 100 megalitres of water to local municipalities and mines. About 700 direct jobs were being created, while new mining developments would open up 6 000 indirect permanent jobs.

In the Free State, Molewa said, R156-million would be spent on two new pipeline projects that would provide additional water to the Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu municipalities as well as the Mangaung (Bloemfontein) metro.

In 2012/13, the department’s Adopt-a-River project, which fights the pollution of rivers, led to 24 rivers being cleaned, creating 985 jobs for women in the process.