Innovation needed to improve water use

Pretoria – The Department of Water and Sanitation says it remains occupied with the business of finding innovative ways to promote more efficient use of water.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane on Wednesday said the department was looking at means to endorse recycling and reuse of water.

Speaking at the New Age Business Briefing on water security in Johannesburg, Minister Mokonyane said South Africa’s water mix is a bit skewed compared with the international pattern.

“Seventy-seven percent of our water mix is constituted by surface water, yet South Africa is dependent on cross boundary water sources.

“We are also a country where in the main, we have depended on surface water that we have used for everything including irrigation and only less than 30% for potable … use,” Minister Mokonyane said.

Water resources in South Africa comprise surface water (77%), return flows (14%) and groundwater (9%).

Minister Mokonyane said the department is now working on extending access and sustainability of water provision to everybody. She said the country, despite the long coastal line, has not been able to exploit desalination and groundwater use.

She said as part of efforts to respond to the water challenge, her department is developing the National Water Master Plan in line with the National Development Plan. The department is also working on establishing regional water utilities to build the capacity of the State.

Minister Mokonyane said they are strengthening public-private partnerships in the field of science and technology. They are also promoting entrepreneurship and improving efficiency at local government level in the water sector.

“The Urban Water Alliance, led by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, is also looking at the War on Leaks Programme,” Minister Mokonyane said.

Over the last 21 years, over nine new dams have been built in the country. More than 85% of South Africans now have access to water and more than 86% of South Africans now have access to decent sanitation.

The Minister ranked South Africa seven out of 10 in terms of water security and urged people to adapt and change their behaviour around water usage.

“Climate change is having a massive impact. We need to talk to each other about water savings and how we can change the way we do things.”

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan said the management of water infrastructure is a critical component to water conservation.

He challenged mayors to take responsibility and make sure that they hire skilled people.

“Between our major cities, we have 45% of wasted water that we pay for. It's totally unacceptable,” said Minister Gordhan.

He said the issue of supply quality and consistency had to be urgently addressed.