Reducing South Africa’s water consumption levels to survive the current drought requires change in behaviour, rather than attempting plans like towing icebergs from Antarctica, said experts yesterday at a round table discussion on the water crisis hosted by GIBB Engineering and Architecture.
The event examined several aspects of the water crisis and discussed other interventions, such as policy changes, current water schemes, groundwater projects, the state of infrastructure and how to reimagine the water supply system.
Former deputy director-general of the department of water affairs and sanitation Trevor Balzer said South Africans needed to change their head space and behaviour in order to be more water-efficient.
“We need more efficient water usage patterns and to balance ecological and engineering infrastructure. Changed behaviour can make a big impact, very quickly. This is not only useful – it’s essential,” said Balzer.
GIBB senior associate Ron Tluczek said alternative solutions needed to be explored and that engineering had a key role to play in evaluating and implementing them.
He said geotechnical initiatives, such as tunnelling and water transfer were already proving highly effective in keeping SA supplied with fresh water. The ongoing drought in many parts of South Africa was symptomatic of a global shortage of fresh water.
The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates that because of climate change, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will face water shortages.
One of the proposed solutions to meet the water demands was to tow icebergs to South Africa from the Southern Ocean.
“The plan appears feasible,” said GIBB technical executive and project manager Dave Clark.
“It may well be possible to secure an iceberg and to tow it north using cargo ships and tugboats. But I believe South Africa can spend its money better elsewhere,” he said.
Clark said strategies like water reuse, sanitation projects and better infrastructure management were helping SA survive water stress, but that more needed to be done.
According to the Draft National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, based on projections the national water deficit, or difference between water requirements and water availability, could be between 27 000 and 38 000 million cubic metres a year by 2030, a gap of about 17% of available surface and ground water, if the proposed interventions proposed in the plan are not implemented.
The present volume of groundwater use is estimated at between 2,000 and 3,000 million cubic metres a year.
South Africa shares four of its river basins – the Limpopo, Inkomati, Pongola/Maputo and Orange – with its neighbours, and arrangements must be made on how to share these.