Skip to main content

tackling the water crisis

Jade Tess Weiner, who holds the Environment & Development Portfolio of the UJW, reports on the water crisis in South Africa and ideas for tackling the problem.

2017 has been a year of water crisis in South Africa with reduced rainfall culminating in water shortages throughout the country. Rainfall data indicates a reduced fall for the country resulting in dangerously low dam levels. Water restrictions have been implemented across the country at various degrees depending on the severity of drought in the region.

Apart from the lack of water being an issue, the old and unreliable infrastructure causes problems ranging from old pipelines, to ineffective water and related infrastructure management by municipalities, to ignorance of the reality of the crisis. Many smaller municipalities in South Africa are currently struggling to operate and maintain their services and infrastructure in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. The result is stark: rapid deterioration of assets, followed by catastrophic component failure, and regular and prolonged disruptions in service delivery.

More than half of the country is using more water than what’s available. A Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) report confirmed that demand for water has already overtaken supply in 60% of South Africa’s water management systems. Nationally, we are already using 98% of our available water supply - and we are not using it efficiently. A shocking 37% of our clean, drinkable water is being lost through inefficient ways of using water such as leaking pipes, dripping taps – and that is what’s being reported, the figure could be much higher. The same DWS report also revealed that pollution and water borne diseases are key risks to our water supplies, after finding that almost 40% of South Africa’s wastewater treatment is in a “critical state”.

Water demand in South Africa is expected to exceed supply by 17% in 2030, according to a World Wildlife Fund report. It is crucial to have insight into the current situation with the intention to raise awareness and education about preservation and conservation.
Each person as well as well as corporation has a water footprint which measures and indicates the amount of water used by such person or corporation. This is the total amount of water that you use in your daily life. It is the ‘direct’ water use in your home as well as the ‘hidden’ water used to produce your goods and services. ‘Hidden’ water refers to the amount used to produce a product (e.g. a chocolate bar) or a service from start to finish.

We need to aim to reduce our water footprints and use water wisely. Below are some tips on how to save water around your home.

• Put a bucket in the shower to catch water: The water that you collect can be used to water your plants or garden
• Keep your showers short OR even better, try a navy shower: Get wet, turn water off, soap and scrub and then turn water on to rinse off
• It is better to shower than to bathe – it reduces water use by up to 66%
• Turn off the water while shaving or brushing your teeth
• Fill your toilet cistern with the water you collected from the shower.
• To cut down on the amount of water you flush, place one or two bricks in the cistern. There are other products available to regulate flush flow e.g. the Hippo Bag and Save-A-Flush
• When trying to find the right water temperature, instead of turning the cold water on to cool it down (thus making the water flow go up), try turning the hot water down.
• Don’t use your toilet as an ashtray or a garbage bin each time you flush objects down the toilet it wastes 6-11 litres of water

• Make sure your dishwasher and washing machine are FULL before running it.
• Do not use running water to thaw meet or other food rather defrost it in the fridge overnight.
• Rinse your vegetables in a shallow basin of water instead of placing them under running water.
• Store drinking water in the fridge instead of running water to get it cold before filling up your glass.

• Use a watering can instead of a hosepipe to water your plants.
• Reuse water from your kitchen and bathroom – instead of pouring water down the drain, use it to water your garden or potted plants.
• Use a broom instead of a hosepipe to clean the driveway and deck.
• Water gardens during early hours of the morning and evening when temperatures are lower as this reduces water loss from evaporation.
• A good way to see if your lawn needs watering is to step on the grass. If it springs back when you move your foot, it doesn’t need to be watered.
• Plant indigenous! These plants do not need to be watered as often as non-native plants and they will usually survive long dry periods.
• Position your sprinkler so that the water flows directly onto the garden or grass instead of onto your fence or driveway.
• Avoid the installation of water features unless they use recycled water.
• Avoid putting fertilizer on your lawn as this increases the need for water.

Keep your swimming pool covered when not in use to minimize water evaporation during hot days.