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Wednesday, 13 January 2016 11:24

South African Water Crisis: What are we in for during 2016?

By Bev Palmer

As a South African, I can relate to and sympathise with anyone who says they are a bit more than concerned with the current (and looming) water situation in South Africa. It seems that each time we switch on our TV’s after a long day at the office, and an even longer and more frustrating commute – we are bombarded with anxiety-attack worthy news. If it’s not the electricity crisis, it’s the water crisis. See, I believe that we could survivor some extended power cuts here and there – but tell me that I can’t flush my toilet or restrict when I can shower – and I start to get heart palpitations. And it doesn’t look like this problem is going to go anywhere. Let’s chat.
Water Restrictions

As of January 1, 2016, the Western Cape has had water restrictions imposed on their residents – putting them at risk of facing up to R 12 000.00 fines should they fail to adhere to the required restrictions. This is only the first step, an attempt (albeit too little and too late) to salvage a lurking crisis. There are far worse and pressing issues for police to attend to then patrolling suburbs to see who may or may not be wasting this precious resource. And who’s to say it will be stuck to by a sufficient amount of people to even make an impact? What worries me most is the fact that the majority of the Western Cape is a coastal area. Desalination may be the next logical step. Fortunately, South Africa’s largest desalination plant is a close neighbour, but it is yet to be established whether it can handle the possible demands when the water crisis hits.
Water Infrastructure

It’s not only the current drought situation in South Africa that is affecting the availability of water to us. Our water infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired. We are a sub-Saharan land, meaning we are exposed to naturally higher temperatures, run the risk of droughts more frequently than others. Add in the threat and aftermath of the El-Nino phenomenon, global warming effects as well as poorly installed and maintained infrastructure, such as dams, reservoirs, boreholes and water pipes. Carte Blanche carefully documented on Sunday the 3rd January 2016 what the possible knock-on effects of not taking sufficient precaution may have.
South African Water: Extreme Water Crisis calls for Extreme Preventative Measures

Without wanting to instil fear into the hearts of South Africans (although I’m quite sure this has already been done without any assistance from myself) – we are going to need to bite the bullet and put our luxurious and sometimes wasteful lifestyles on hold. It was suggested in a Carte Blanches insert that measures such as bathing in a bucket of water instead of a shower may be the first drastic step to take. It was implied that if we do not start taking measures of this nature now already, that we may not even have drinking water in a few months to come.
What causes a drought?

So many influencing factors can lead to droughts; El-Nino, weather patterns, global warming, poor rainfall and wastage of the small amount of water we do have. This leads us to where we are now – waiting for the mercy of rainfall. All we can do is preserve, conserve and use it sparingly, every single one of us.
How does a water crisis impact me?

Well, the first step is water restrictions. Your water is readily available all day for emergencies, but you may only use it for certain water-intense purposes at specific times of the day. After that, surely we will be lead to “water-shedding”, where certain area’s have their water supply turned off for allocated time periods etc. – to enforce the effect desired in water restrictions. I shudder to think what might happen after that. The consequences of compromised sanitation can have devastating effects; uncontrolled spread of disease, open and untreated sewage, dehydration, starvation due to insufficient crop yields or higher import prices, infection from mosquito’s feeding in stagnant and contaminated water – the list is endless!
How do we survive a water crisis?

As sad, frustrating and infuriating as it is, we are going to have to pull together and get creative. We have created a list of unusual ways to conserve water – have a look here. In addition to what we mention in our water crisis survival article, it’s important to remember that no act is too small to contribute to the conservation of our water supplies. Collect gray water (water from your shower or bath) to flush toilets or water plants. Let two people bath in the same bath water, after each other. Allow children to swim (in warmer months) on alternate days instead of bathing (do let them bath at least every second day to avoid infection or illness). Buy large storage containers which can seal well; store some water in them for “non-rainy days”. If you have a saline pool, allow your dogs to drink water decanted out of the pool into a bowl form them. Consider switching your water off in the shower while you are not actively using it; i.e. – wet your hair, switch off the water and them shampoo it at your leisure. Also, men could fill a basin of water, shower as usual and then have their morning shave in the basin. This allows them to avoid rushing through it, but not wasting any water.
Drinking water in South Africa

Sad but true, this has been a problem for longer than we’ve had a water crisis. Our tap water is terribly compromised, and although it’s mentioned that South Africa’s tap water is amongst the top in the world to consume – we know that’s not the case. Need some more info? Head on over here. It’s time to start considering alternative methods of getting sustainable, affordable water solutions. Whether it’s a filter fitted to your tap, purified bottled water or buying bottled water – look at ways to purify any water you may receive or find an alternative, reliable source.

Either way, it’s time we band together, get creative and be resourceful.

I don’t know about you – but I enjoy my daily showers – and don’t want to give that up.


GIL Africa 2017