The Water Crisis

The effects of climate change are posing a serious threat to the livelihood of many South Africans, KwaZulu-Natal is one of the most worst-hit provinces by the water crisis facing the country.

eThekwini and the iLembe municipalities’ major source of water, Hazelmere Dam, is expected to run dry within the next two months if no rain falls. This potential threat has forced the government to ration water by introducing a quota system in some areas.

According to some media reports, the drought has already collectively cost KZN farmers 366 248 in large stock units (mostly cattle), about 8000 jobs, and significant sugar cane and vegetable yield losses.

In a bid to minimise the worst drought damage in 23 years, eThekwini Municipality issued water cut notifications.

“The on-going drought has led the Municipality to increase restrictions in water supply and also implement strict restrictions, especially in the Northern areas. Critical and strategic facilities that offer essential services such as hospitals, clinics, airports and fire stations will not experience any water disruption,” said eThekwini Municipality Mayor, James Nxumalo, in a statement. “Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Nomsa Dube-Ncube last week met with all KZN Mayors in Durban to discuss the extent and severity of drought in the Province. She warned that if water wastage continues, cities and industries won’t be able to produce and that its time for everyone to acknowledge that water cannot be supplied or available endlessly.”

Many young people across the country have taken it upon themselves to avert the situation. One of those is an Eastern Cape-based Activator, environmentalist and founder of water saving educational project ‘Mzansi Genius’, Pearl Sekwati. Her organisation educates children between the ages of six and 18 and gives a hands on experience focusing on waste water treatment plants, science museums, etc. Sekwati’s project aims to instil water saving principles and values to toddlers and teenagers.

She believes that this crisis need a collaborative response from everyone in the country. “I am sure as a collective we can avert the water crisis by being more conscious about our water usage. Most of the people in the corporate sector are learned and knowledgeable. Most of them already know that our country is going through a water crisis. They can do justice to those who are at the bottom of the food chain, meaning the communities that don’t have water purification facilities, by not discharging their effluent or at least treat the effluent. Most of all to educate, raise water-use awareness and transfer the knowledge and skills to the community,” she said.

Durban-based environmentalist and Activator, Nolwazi Renee Ntshingila, said people need to be aware that wasting water is as scary as digging our own graves. She shared some basic water saving tips. “Doing simple things such as to avoid buying recreational water toys, having leak-free homes, not flushing the toilet unnecessarily and not letting water run while brushing your teeth, are just some of the things that seem small but could make a huge difference.” She said.

2013 Activator and water researcher expert, Dr Nosiphiwe Ngqwala, is working on a public water awareness drive whose main aim is to mobilise people to take care of the environment because the chances are it will be too late by the time we want to do something. Dr Ngqwala suggested a few tips that might minimalize the problem. She said, “First of all, people need to be vigilant about how they use their water. Government needs to have long-term plans or measures rather than treat the symptoms. They also need to revisit the Water Service Act because there are still some people with no access to water. As much as the corporate sector is focusing on the growth of the economy, they need to be sensitive to their surroundings. Civic societies must continue to promote awareness and access to information.”

 Local social entrepreneur and founder of Water, Hygiene, Convenience (WHC), Paseka Lesolang, who invented an innovative water control device said that the reason behind the invention is that 70% of water is currently lost through toilet leaks.

 Installations of Lesolang’s product, Leak Less Valve, can save approximately 12.6 billion litres per year [70 000 units x 500L x 30 days x 12 months]. These savings will equate to R30 million, which can be reinvested into the project to make it sustainable. Lesolang said that the short-term goal is to install at least 70 000 devices into already constructed low cost houses.

 “WHC encourages the execution of ideal Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and/or CSI projects through the above Midterm Goal. WHC is very keen to partner with corporate entities that are keen to save water, create jobs, develop the community and enterprises through their CSI’s as per their Corporate Social Responsibility. Civil society needs to understand that water conservation needs to be a collective effort for all our sake, it is not a matter of saving money or a lifestyle choice, it is a priority and a necessity for our sustainability.” he said.

Find more water saving tips at WHC’s website:

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