Experts make plan for SA’s water needs

Country could lead Africa in smart solutions, says World Wide Fund for Nature manager

Former World Bank vice-president Ismail Serageldin famously predicted that “the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water”. But now a plan has emerged which aims to ensure that if violence erupts‚ it bypasses South Africa. It has been put together by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Boston Consulting Group after a workshop involving dozens of experts from the public and private sectors.

Among the steps suggested in the report are:

  • Water-use compliance and disclosure reporting requirements for JSE-listed companies;
  • Equipping communities with the skills to fix leaks;
  • Strictly enforced punitive action for abuse of water;
  • Incentives for the private sector to save water; and
  • Clearing alien species and converting the plant biomass into a commercial product.

WWF’s senior manager for fresh water‚ Christine Colvin‚ said the worst drought for 20 years had taught South Africa some harsh lessons.

“Although the Cape is still in the grip of a deepening disaster‚ a greater danger may be that the floods in the rest of the country wash away the good resolutions to be better prepared and strengthen water governance‚” she said.

“There are actions we could take now that would prepare us better for all eventualities.”

Trends in water use showed that South Africa would face a water deficit of 17% by 2030‚ the report said. By then‚ demand for water was expected to have grown from 15 billion cubic metres to 18 billion cubic metres.

Delegates at the Future of Water workshop in January imagined four scenarios:

  • Ample water across the country but excessive waste due to decaying infrastructure‚ and a depressed socio-economic environment;
  • Adequate water and a booming economy leading to growing demand;
  • High economic growth but water scarcity due to drought and pollution; and
  • Severe drought coupled with recession.

Four key goals emerged from the discussion: becoming a water-conscious country; implementing strong water governance; managing water supply and demand; and becoming water smart by commercialising low-water technologies.

Among other ideas were the separation of water supply depending on the quality needed for different purposes‚ and incentives for businesses to recycle and reuse water.

Colvin said: “There are real opportunities for South Africa to lead Africa in the transition towards a water-smart economy.”– TMG Digital / TimesLIVE

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