Ensuring water for all requires more efficient use of available resources


South Africa is a water scarce country and one of the driest in the world and at the same time receiving around half of the world average annual rainfall.  Climate change is upon us and making the situation worse as it means less water will be available to meet the growing water needs in the country. This is a call to action as climate change is driving the country towards a warmer and drier future with longer and more extreme droughts.

South Africa is facing increasing water demands to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and economic growth.  Climate change and the pollution of the water resource continue to place a serious strain on the already stretched water resources. The Department of Water and Sanitation has proclaimed the month of March as the National Water Month to create awareness and highlight the importance of water conservation and the protection of the water resources for reliable supply and water security for the current and future generations.

In as much as awareness can be conducted, the buck stops with the people changing attitude and behavior towards responsible water use. There is nothing much that we can do about climate change, but we can change our water use behavior and use the available water in a wise and more conservative manner. Let us stop wasting and recycle water to relieve the strain on our water supply schemes. Water can be recycled by using the water from our baths and other safe sources to flush our toilets and water our gardens.

Leaks are one of the major causes of water losses. It is important that we fix all leaks to prevent the loss of precious water. Municipalities must also play their role in fixing leaks in the main pipelines and pipe bursts as this is one of the major causes of water loss. The public and municipalities need to work together with the public reporting leaks and pipe bursts and municipalities acting with speed to fix the problems as a single drop of water lost in our water scarce country is a major loss.

The pollution of the water resources is another man-made challenge to water security as it renders water unfit for use. We are the ones polluting our water resources by converting them to rubbish dumps thereby negatively impacting on the water quality. We need to change and treat our water resources with respect as water is life. Another way to relieve the strain on our water schemes is to practice rainwater harvesting as we receive some much needed rain. Rainwater harvesting has benefits financially and for the environment, so let us embrace it and save water and money.

Water is life and access to water supply is essential to overcoming poverty and addressing socio-economic inequalities. It is therefore important that we use the available water wisely for the benefit of all in our water scarce country. Water security and the future sustainable and reliable supply are in our hands. It is crucial that we all use this water awareness month to remind each other of the importance and centrality of water in life and that South Africa is a water scarce country which requires wise water use and more conservation efforts for water security.

With climate change upon us, water conservation must be our main priority. Some of the important and yet taken for granted ways of saving water include turning off taps while brushing teeth, fixing leaks, using a hose rather than a hosepipe to wash our cars and using grey water. Water has no substitute, so let us take care of our water resources and use the available water in a wise and conservative manner for the benefit of the current and future generations.


Themba Khoza works in the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Communication Services unit based in the Mpumalanga Province.