Water security in the face of climate change


South Africa is a water scarce and one of the driest countries in the world and the continuing drop in water volumes in the water resources and less than required rain is having a serious dent in water availability and putting a strain on water security for the current generation which will also affect future generations still to come.

The current situation experienced in the country and throughout the world is a direct result of climate change and this calls for all of us to adapt and work together for minimize the negative impact of climate change. Climate change has brought about major changes in weather patterns which have a direct impact on water resources and water availability, which is mostly negative in water scarce countries like ours. 

As a result of climate change, we see less rainfall and high temperatures leading to high levels of evaporation which have a serious negative impact on water resources and available water. Climate change is basically the reason for the continuous drop in water volumes in our dams, rivers and other water resources. The drought we are experiencing is one of the negative impacts of climate change affecting our livelihood, so we really need to adapt to the new reality.

Looking at the current rainfall and water availability trends, it is quite obvious that we continue to receive less and less rainfall every successive year and it does not seem that the situation will change in the coming years. As we depend on rain for water, this simple the water levels in our water resources continue to decline.

Currently government and water users are exploring groundwater to augment the dwindling surface water resources. Due to the high demand and continuous high temperatures as a direct result of climate change, we run the risk of depleting the available groundwater resources. Now and again, we see municipalities and communities running out of water and requiring interventions by all stakeholders and sectors in society to assist so as to prevent the loss of life as water is life. It is therefore imperative for all of us to ensure that we do not reach crisis situations by behaving in far more responsible ways when it comes to water use taking into account that we live in a water scarce country and that climate change is upon us and having a serious negative impact in our limited water resources.

Water supply security is becoming a challenge as a result of the dwindling water resources and increasing demand due to population growth. Access to water is a human right, therefore it is crucial that we all play our part in using the available drops of water in a more responsible, efficient and wise manner to ensure that everyone has access to the source of life.

Water security depends on each and every one of us treating water as our main treasure and using it with the outmost of extra care. This calls for a change in our mindset and behaviour in relation to water use. A change in behaviour and mindset will ensure that not a single drop of water goes to waste. Responsible behaviour and mindset will ensure that no leaks and pipe bursts go unattended resulting in high volumes of water going to waste and will also ensure community involvement and leadership in water conservation. Water security is in our hands.

Turning a blind eye on water wastage shows irresponsible behaviour and must be discouraged at all times. We must always remember that water has no substitute and shortage affects everyone. This then calls for all of us to work together to use the available water in a more responsible manner to ensure that it lasts us longer as we can see that rainfall has become elusive and scarce.

Communities, water users, government must work together to ensure water security. It must be a strong chain as we need all hands on board for water security, especially as our country is a water scarce country. Let us work with our municipalities to reduce water losses and conserve more water. Remember, it all starts with you as an individual.

Communities also need to understand that water restrictions are a last resort to protect the infrastructure and ensure that users and communities downstream also enjoy their human right of access to water. It is therefore crucial to work together and adhere to the imposed restrictions for the security of supply for all as water is life.

Some parts of the country are receiving much needed rain and we are happy and relieved to receive this rain, but we also need to be extra careful on rainy days as climate change makes flooding and hailstorms frequent occurrences as we can see with the situation in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country where property was destroyed and lives lost. We must therefore prioritize life and always be safe. Let us not try to cross ravaging rivers and flooded roads as this poses the risk of being washed away and death. Always try to find a safe place and be safe. Always be safe than dead.

Let us be responsible citizens and always use the available water wisely and efficiently, and be safe on rainy days as water security and our lives and safety depends on our behaviours and actions.

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