South Africa: Water, next crisis after Eskom – experts warn

Water experts have suggested that a radical approach to water management is the only solution to mitigate the looming water crisis

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Water experts in South Africa have warned of a looming water crisis that would be worse than the current energy woes the country is facing with load shedding.

A hard-hitting review of both Nelson Mandela Bay and the South Africa’s water supply and usage status indicates that the country will have a 17% water deficit by 2030.

“Unless drastic measures are taken to implement a range of integrated solutions, South Africa’s next looming crisis will be severe water scarcity,” experts said

Speaking at the event – part of the “How to Build a City” series of conversations that addresses how the Nelson Mandela Bay city can be rebuilt, the municipality’s director for water and sanitation, Barry Martin noted that the region is struck by periods of drought every four to five years.

He laid bare the water situation in the city and revealed new facts and developments, including that of a proposed dam to be built on the Kouga River – despite a raft of challenges, including environmental concerns.

He noted that collective water supply of Nelson Mandela Bay was sitting between 46% and 47% of its total capacity. While the city consumed 270 megalitres of water per day, the demand was projected to reach 375 megalitres by 2025.

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Martin stated that initiatives to reduce water consumption while growing water supply, would mitigate the higher demand and should those initiatives prove effective, the city could have access to 390 megalitres a day by 2022.

While pointing out the challenges with seawater desalination, Martin reiterated that it was an “inevitable” solution.

“Desalination is very expensive and water produced this way carried a higher per-unit cost. We have a poor customer base in this metro, which presents affordability challenges. In other words, many people in the metro would not be able to afford the water produced through desalination,” he said.

A number of long-mooted projects were discussed at the event held at the Nelson Mandela University Business School on Wednesday.

Directed by Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber CEO Nomkhita Mona, the event attracted local academics, water experts and representatives from the national department of co-operative governance.

In conclusion, delegates agreed that a radical approach to water management was the only solution to mitigate the looming water crisis and to save the Metro from going the Eskom route.