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Is water crisis next?



There is another crisis looming: that of water scarcity. On 22 March every year the South African government adopts World Water Day as a time to underline the importance of water.

“After a very somber week, government and the private sector need to address the challenges ahead due to water scarcity,” says Mannie Jnr. Ramos, COO of Abeco, the world’s first ‘bank’ for water and leader in hygienic water storage solutions in Africa for over 35 years.

“Water scarcity is the next big threat we face in the coming months as the Coronavirus pandemic spreads, particularly in our country where there is a wide gap between ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds. Not having access to water to frequently wash hands, could mean the difference between life or death for some.”

Ramos does not welcome calling attention to this fact while our country is facing concerns around safety and their livelihoods, due to Covid-19.

“This issue has to be voiced,” he says, “there is a very real threat to those living in areas where water is not accessible. In addition, the drain on existing water resources which are already in crisis, needs to be addressed in our Coronavirus crisis planning, sooner rather than later.”

According to the 2018 General Household Survey from Statistics South Africa, while there were improvements to the supply of tap water inside dwellings in regions like Western Cape and Gauteng and the Western Cape, less than half of South Africans have access to piped water in their houses.

Nearly 50% of others rely on communal sources, such as community or neighbours’ taps or rivers.

He believes there are signs that water scarcity is increasing, citing recent news reports about water shortages in the Eastern Cape, a KZN water shutdown, water-shedding in Polokwane, water riots in the Free State, as well as water cuts in Tshwane, Mpumalanga and more.

“A week-long riot happened in QwaQwa in February 2020 due to chronic water shortages in the Free State region,” he points out.

Farmers in the Norther Cape are suffering as their rain-fed agricultural livelihood is threatened.

“We can’t keep blaming weather uncertainty, drought or climate change for the water situation we are facing as a country, we must all take responsibility,” Ramos says.

“Rainfall in SA has always been unpredictable and variable,” says Ramos, “we must build infrastructure with enough capacity to cope with regular dry periods. We are not implementing the right water strategies to increase supply and curb demand, which is very concerning to me.”

Which brings us to the current crisis facing the entire nation. Ramos says the private and public sector need to work together to address this risk and come up with solutions that will assist with water conservation and water access.

“We have to stand together; water scarcity and Coronavirus strategies need to be developed in conjunction with each other right now.”

Data shows that South Africans consume about 237 litres of water per person per day, if this increased even by a marginal percentage, the impact on water resources has to be planned for.

South Africans’ water usage per person is already well above the world average of 173 litres per day.

“We need to get smarter with our water resources,” says Ramos. “New solutions need to be put in place or the gap between demand for water, and the supply thereof, will continue to widen.”

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