Drink up while you can — South

Drink up while you can — South Africa drifts toward a full-blown water crisis

South Africa is already using 98% of all available water resources and, with summer here it’s only going to get worse.

Drink up while you can — South

We’re  on the edge of a cliff, and unless the government spends at least R293 billion in the next five years, it’s tickets. The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) reports that the government needs to spend up to 100 times more on water infrastructure and management processes in order to avert the impending crisis.

Gauteng was recently left without water because, according to the department, it was too “close to the edge.” We’re afraid this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the state of SA’s waterworks. The problem, according to the DWS, can be broken down into five main points… well actually they had loads more, but we made so much easier so we can scare you into saving water.


While SA can be considered a semi-arid region, our problem is not a lack of water; it’s that we’re using way more than we need and wasting in the region of 37% of our water resources. This boils down mostly to underdeveloped and faulty infrastructure.

Willingness to act

Government says that they are working on a plan to reallocate water to where it’s needed, but with 8% of our land producing around 50% of our water, and 98% of that already allocated, it’s not an easy task. On top of that, government has been planning reallocation for the last 20 years!


A report filed by the European Union indicates that only 5% of our waste is disposed of in a environmentally-sound manner, and that our levels of pollution are as high as those of developed countries. This said, we haven’t the means to manage our pollution the way they can.

The report also stated that: “23 municipalities throughout South Africa are in a crisis state with acute risk of disease outbreak.” A further 38% of municipalities are at risk.


According to the DWS’s latest public overview on the state of our water, a survey conducted in January 2010 showed that 60% of the country’s water service authorities don’t have the right licences or permits for their treatment works. A third of the 40% that do, don’t monitor the quality of their water on a monthly basis.

273 national water schemes have budget deficits and cannot clean water properly, a further 15% nationally are on the cusp of going broke… a recent inter-ministerial task team reported that government doesn’t actually set aside budget for these operations.


The lifeblood of our economy is poisoning. Well, the lifeblood of our people anyway. Acid mine drainage (AMD) has become an increasingly unmanageable problem and, with more informal mines popping up by the day — especially in Mpumulanga — water resources are being poisoned at a rate never before seen.

South Africa is running out of time, and fast. If government does not allocate funds, offer training and put in place stricter measures for water quality management, we might find ourselves in a position akin to China and many other developing nations with poor environmental practices.