Protect and conserve groundwater for water security


South Africa is a water scarce country and with climate change a reality, water resources are dwindling and surface water is becoming more limited. The normal water resources, such as the rivers, streams, and wetlands are getting depleted. This then calls for the need to look at groundwater as an important alternative to ensure we don’t run out of the precious resource. Most of South Africa’s groundwater is of potable quality. Groundwater is fairly cheap and cheap to develop making it a cost effective source of water.

The water sector continues to face a myriad of challenges attributable largely to the global climate change effect, coupled with the effect of population growth and migration that continue to place pressure on water resources. Climate change is negatively affecting South Africa’s water resources as increasing temperatures means increased evaporation and basically less surface water. This is exacerbated by old and aging infrastructure which results in the loss of precious water through leakages and pipe bursts.  Groundwater then becomes an important alternative to surface water as there is less loss of precious water through evaporation.

To ensure that groundwater contributes to water security in the country, it is crucial to protect groundwater sources. Pollution is a major problem in the face of the decreasing water resources in our water scarce country. In as much as pollution of the surface water resources negatively impact on the available water fit for human use, it is the same situation with groundwater and this limits the available water as the polluted water goes to waste as it is deadly and cannot be used. We then need to proactively prevent the pollution of our water resources, especially groundwater resources to ensure that groundwater plays a major in averting a water crisis in the country.

Acid mine drainage and sewer spillages are some of the major pollutants negatively affecting groundwater resources, so it is critical for everyone to prevent the pollution of the groundwater resources to ensure water security in this water scarce country. Authorities need to act quickly as the seepage from acid mine drainage and sewer spillages negatively affect groundwater leading to the loss of an important water resource. Let us protect, conserve and use groundwater in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all and water security for the current and future generations in the face of climate change. 

Groundwater resource protection is crucial to ensure a water mix in the country leading to water security, as surface water resources keep dropping. The Department of Water and Sanitation has come up with an awareness campaign promoting groundwater under the theme “Making the invisible, visible” to highlight the importance of groundwater as an alternative water resource, especially in a dry country like ours.

South Africa’s Master Plan on Water and Sanitation projects that by 2040 there should be less reliance on surface water. The Master Plan hopes to achieve a change in the water mix through increased groundwater use, increase in the re-use of effluent from waste water treatment plants, water reclamation, as well as optimization of desalination and treated acid mine drainage. The Master Plan focuses on demand management and alternative sources of water.   

Invasive alien plants are some of the challenges faced by the water sector as they suck a lot of water from the system. Invasive alien plants destroy water resources and must be removed to protect water resources and the available groundwater in our water scarce country. Water is life and without water there is basically no development and no life. 

Water plays a critical role in inclusive economic growth, poverty reduction and the significant reduction of inequality in South Africa. Groundwater is therefore crucial to contribute to water security in the country. It is therefore important that we all play our part in protecting, conserving and using groundwater in a sustainable manner. Water is life, so let us use all available resources to ensure that everyone has access to the precious resource and the source of life. Let us ensure water security by protecting our water resources and tap into our groundwater resources.   

Themba Khoza is the Department of Water and Sanitation,  Mpumalanga Provincial Office Communications Manager responsible for all communications activities in the Mpumalanga Province.