As South Africa continues to experience the effects of drought, which has devastated most parts of the country, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has announced immediate and long-term measures to mitigate the resultant risks.
Briefing the media on the outcomes of the technical MINMEC (Ministers and Members of Executive Councils) meeting on drought and the department’s ongoing efforts to mitigate drought in different parts of the country, Sisulu reiterated that the department needs to look at new ways of providing the services that it is responsible for.
“The recent drought that devastated most parts of the country has highlighted the need for a more elaborate facility that can be applied to consistently guide the management of water supply and mitigation against risks due to drought. This is also to facilitate equitable water supply under normal conditions, while mitigating vulnerability by improving preparedness to cope with drought conditions.
“Some of the tools we need to look at include revitalising the Blue-, Green- and No-Drop monitoring programmes; ensuring regular reporting on the performance of individual municipalities in their delivery of safe water and sanitation services, as well as on their reduction of losses in their water supply systems, and encouraging municipalities that have set targets to restrict their water use and to publicise their results on a monthly basis.
“This will help to make water users more conscious of the supply challenges that we face, how they can contribute and whether [or not] we are being successful,” the Minister said.
Immediate measures to mitigate drought
Sisulu announced that in the short-term, the department will implement measures to mitigate drought and these include:
- Implementing drought operating rules;
- Undertaking borehole drilling and/or rehabilitation;
- Water tankering from available sources;
- Rainwater & fog harvesting;
- Protection and use of springs;
- Cloud seeding;
- Evaporation suppression;
- Desalination of brackish groundwater or sea water; and
- Effluent treatment and re-use.
In the long-term, the department will implement measures to enhance water security against drought. These include:
- Water storage and transfer developments;
- Water infrastructure such as dams and conveyance pipelines will be developed to redistribute water over time and space;
- Review and promulgate restrictions within the legislation to restore and protect ecological infrastructure; and
- Developing and integrating other sources like groundwater, desalination and re-use, etc., with surface systems also to enhance water security.
Sisulu noted that desalination remains an expensive form of water security and only the coastal provinces would be beneficiaries of desalination.
Reducing domestic consumption to 175 litres per person
Meanwhile, Sisulu said the department will develop and implement water conservation and water demand strategies in all water use sectors.
This will be done through public-private growth initiative projects and reducing the average domestic consumption to 175 litres per person per day.
The department will also optimise the water mix, which is currently strongly dominated by surface water. This will be done by increasing some groundwater use, re-use of effluent from waste water treatment plants, water reclamation, as well as desalination and the treated acid mine drainage.