What you need to know about the water crisis currently happening across South Africa
Over the past few months, South Africa has been experiencing severe dry conditions. The current water crisis hadn’t broken through to ordinary people ( those not in government or farming) until early September. This was when areas in the north east of the country experienced a heatwave that put supply and demand for water in the spotlight. So what exactly is going on?
There are three factors to consider:
El Niño weather conditions
El Niño is a change in weather patterns that causes drought. With very little rain falling over the past six months and hot weather conditions getting more prevalent — it’s easy to see how El Niño is a factor in the current water crisis.
However, the El Niño we’re currently experiencing was supposed to happen 10 years ago. So what does this tell us about the infrastructures, planning and implementation put in place by the relevant departments? Was any planning done at all? Would we have been in a better position to handle the rain scarcity 10 years ago? Surely, the 10-year delay should have better-equipped us to handle this situation.
As climate change makes the world warmer, future El Niño occurrences are bound to get more severe. The same can be said of El Nina, which is a weather pattern that usually follows El Niño. El Nina brings with it heavy rains that flood, are we as a nation prepared for the floods that we are experiencing after the drought?
– According to information shared by Rand Water on its social media channels, high demand takes a toll on the system. Reservoirs need hours to recover, all of which has come to light due to the heatwave Gauteng has been experiencing making consumers ravenous for water.
With this in mind then, the scarcity of rain doesn’t currently seem to be much of a factor. Rand Water is battling with its infrastructure and how to meet high demands.
– On the other side of the demand coin are those provinces that are indeed suffering due to storage issues. Provinces where there is simply not enough water stored for situations like this one.
– The infrastructure is old and outdated. There are leaks in the system.
– New infrastructure is running behind — it’s taking far too long for dams and other projects to be finished.
Municipalities are governed by elected parties. This changes if those parties are not re-elected for future terms — or in worse cases, are voted out before they finish their terms.
Often, because service delivery is a contentious hot button issue, most projects do not get continuity. Proposed plans will often be halfway to implementation when municipal running changes, and there are no guarantees that the initiated projects will see light of day.