South Africa Water Crisis: South Africa is a country about twice the size of Texas, it is home to 49 million people. This country has been stricken by affects from the long standing apartheid to the devastation that diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB have caused. Now another crisis looms in the distance: Water. As more and more people migrate into cities from rural villages the pressure for the city to meet the water demands is ever increasing.
There are many reasons that attribute to this growing water crisis in South Africa. Climate change has affected water supplies within the region. Rains that usually come and supply the country’s water have come infrequently. For example in Durban the Dams are 20 percent lower than at the start of 2010. Due to this fact, cities are looking to impose water restrictions on communities Another problem that Durban in particular faces is stolen water. According to one report 35 percent of the cities water is stolen or given out through illegal connections.
Also, preventative measures that were put in place such as the construction of dams in the area have not even started or are still in the process of being built and those structures that are in place now are slowly collapsing. Those in rural areas still lack access to water. One report has stated that about 5 million people lack access to water and 15 million lack access to basic sanitation. This number has improved greatly since the end of apartheid in 1994, however these numbers are still too high and not one person should ever lack access to the most basic necessity of life, which is water.
Interestingly enough South Africa boast one of the most clean water systems in the world, however due to the lack of sanitation and access in the country’s rural communities the threat of water borne disease is steadily increasing. The Vaal River, the largest river in South Africa and popular tourist destination is becoming increasingly contaminated with fecal material due to the lack of sanitation supplies.
South Africa’s rainfall has always been variable and unpredictable. This remains one of the larger risks to rain-fed agriculture, as Karoo farmers (Northern Cape) are currently experiencing. Reliable supplies can be provided to urban and industrial water users – and irrigation farmers – if storage infrastructure is built with enough capacity to cope with regular dry periods. But that infrastructure has to be managed with a watchful eye on the ever-changing climate.
Recent research has shown that African groundwater supplies are not yet being negatively affected. Hotter temperatures will see more evaporation from the land surface, but it’s also expected that storms will become more intense. More rain will fall in a shorter time and this produces more recharge than slow, gentle rain. The same effect could see river flows increase. At the moment, South Africa uses only around 30%of the water in its rivers and underground. Using more would rapidly become more expensive. But climate change may help. At present, only 8% of rainfall actually runs into the rivers and is then available to be used or stored in dams. If rainfall becomes more intense, that proportion will be greater.
Municipalities such as George, located in the Western Cape Province, have remedied the water crisis by using DMI-65 in their drinking water treatment plants. The DMI-65 is an advanced catalytic filter media that removes heavy metals from ground water supplies. The local communities in George Municipality previously had terrible issues withe excessive iron and manganese levels in their water supply, the water looked brown in colour and had a bad odour. Since implementing DMI-65 the local drinking water quality has improving markedly, to the point where the George Government now provides drinking water to surrounding townships. There are several other townships now looking to implement DMI-65 to improve the quality of their community drinking water.