South Africa is drying up – and it is only going to get worse
South Africa is among the 30th-most water-stressed countries in the world. Since the beginning of the 2010s, the country has been trapped in a series of multi-year droughts, exacerbated by a rapidly heating planet as well as the long-term effects of El Niño. Average temperatures for the period 2010-2020 were the highest on record, and that translates into real problems for all communities.
Let’s be clear: the acute water challenges that plague South Africa are probably going to be with us for a long time. On 26 October 2020, the World Meteorological Organisation released its “State of the Climate Report in Africa 2019” that lays bare the dire situation of multi-year droughts and acceleration of further extreme weather events in Africa.
This grim picture of water scarcity should lead to a complete rethinking of how water is used and managed in South Africa. The prevailing mentality in the country is still that the climate crisis is – to paraphrase the words of Kofi Annan – something that is going to happen in the future. It is an unappealing topic because it is happening in slow motion – not as sudden and dramatic as the Covid-19 pandemic and its concomitant shutdowns.
Water conservation has to become a national priority and every single household and entity in the country, public or private, must get involved in promoting sustainable water management practices. Water-conservation messages must become a permanent feature in all media.
Acknowledgement: Dr Roland Ngam is programme manager for climate justice and socioecological transformation at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Southern Africa.
More than ever, this is the time to prioritize the implementation of water-saving practices
As we move closer to the end of the year, the general consensus is that this year has presented us with unprecedented times that reminded us of the invaluable role nature plays in our daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted our undeniable reliance on water, since it has been one of our defense mechanism towards reducing chances of infection. However, this also points out the dire need to conserve water as it is a limited natural resource. More than ever, this is the time to prioritize the implementation of water-saving practices to ensure we do not come to “day zero” due to the high demand of water usage for proper hygiene purposes.
Basic steps to work on changing behaviour towards water in the office and home;
- Make it a habit to report leaking taps and leaking toilets at the workplace.
- Develop a routine to monitor your water meter and check for leakages around the house.
- Retrofit taps with aerator flow restrictors and flow regulators on shower-heads.
- Reduce the amount of time spent in a shower by a minute per week, to reach a goal of showering for 5 minutes only.
Vegetable gardeners can;
- Water vegetable crops early in the morning before 10:00 or after 16:00.
- Reduce the use of potable water to irrigate crops and consider using greywater (avoid water that may contain blood, oil or grease), and implement rain water harvesting.
- Invest in drip irrigation, or hose pipes fitted with trigger nozzles and watering cans with rose-heads.
Acknowledgement: Water Wise