South Africa's "parched prospects" and what we can do to quench the thirst

South Africa is currently overexploiting its water resources and that demand is exceeding supply. Even with the planned national interventions, the gap between demand and supply will continue to increase over the next 20 years.

This was the main finding of a report carried out by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) entitled "Parched Prospects II: A revised long-term water supply and demand forecast for South Africa," which they produced with the Water Research Commission and the Pardee Center for International Futures.

The report uses the International Futures forecasting system to forecast water withdrawals for the municipal, industrial and agricultural sectors in South Africa for the next 20 years.

Then, it forecasts the expected water supply for the next 20 years, using the latest available large-scale reconciliation strategies conducted by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).

The research indicates that South Africa needs to increase its available water supply by nearly 2.5 cubic kilometres and reduce withdrawals by 0.57 cubic kilometres by 2035.

Not entirely surprising for a water-stressed nation like South Africa, the result of comparing the difference between water withdrawals and water supply is a deficit. The research indicates that South Africa needs to increase its available water supply by nearly 2.5 cubic kilometres and reduce withdrawals by 0.57 cubic kilometres by 2035 if it hopes to reconcile supply and demand.

The report goes on to recommend a number of additional strategies that could be used to reduce withdrawals and increase water supply. These include innovations in the areas of sanitation, water treatment and wastewater treatment technologies, water efficiency measures, non-revenue water and internal leaks.

Notable for the groundwater industry is a recommendation that the agricultural sector in particular needs to increase its reliance on groundwater to meet its sizeable water needs. For those of us in the groundwater industry, this represents an opportunity, but also a responsibility to ensure that the country’s groundwater is used sustainably.

The report is helpfully summarised in this short video, put together by the ISS:

Click here to view the full report.

Visit the WRC website for more information.

And please share your thoughts about this report in the comments.