06 September 2005

South Africa: Western Cape water crisis to get worse

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has warned that South Africa will become one of the two driest places on Earth as climate change tightens its grip globally.

The WWF also warned that the Western Cape would run out of fresh water by 2015.

This comes as the Department of Water Affairs, the City of Cape Town and other stakeholders gather in two weeks to decide whether the region's water restrictions will be lifted or remain in place.

Although dams in the Western Cape's water supply system are 80% full, indications are that water restrictions will stay, but may not be as strict.

Rashid Khan, regional director of Water Affairs, said yesterday although there was enough water to see the province through the coming summer, it made no sense to lift restrictions only to reintroduce them later.

"We will get through the next season, no problem," said Khan. "Water restrictions are an intervention put in place for a specific period of time. (But) it makes no sense to take them away and then bring them back next summer. Rather have a low level of restrictions throughout than harsh restrictions later," he said.

Khan said his department wanted to retain the "behavioural changes" of using less water which water restrictions had instilled in consumers.

"It is not a case of 'we have water so let's use it'. Whatever water we use we are taking away from the fishes," Khan said.

Momelezi Skweyiya, executive supporting officer for John Mokoena, mayoral committee member for Trading Services, said it was unlikely that restrictions would be lifted totally.

"We are still assessing the situation. We could lower the restrictions to a level one, which restricts garden irrigation to certain times, or use a water demand management system," he said.

This would be implemented by the use of incentives.

Tony Frost, CEO of the South African branch of WWF, who spoke at the Cape Town Press Club yesterday, said predictions were that the two driest places on Earth as a result of climate change would be China's Yangtze River Valley and South Africa.

"The world will become an unpleasantly hot place. We will be subjected to severe drought in the Western Cape and in southern Africa," Frost said.

He said the world's massive natural resource consumption, particularly the enormous use of oil, was driving climate change.
By 1972, the amount of carbon emitted globally had exceeded the planet's ability to absorb it.

Every South African should take action to adapt to and lessen the effects of climate change. Three critical steps were sorting out the country's public transport system, recycling all water and installing rain water tanks and solar heaters on all houses.

"Public transport should be right at the top of every agenda if we're really going to counter climate change. If the three government tiers do not pay adequate attention to public transport, there will be a serious economic and social crisis in this country. It's a huge issue," he said.

When oil became $100 a barrel, filling one's tank would cost about R1 000.

"How will we transport all our workers?" he said.

Every household in the country should have a rainwater tank and solar heater.

"Why is every house not harvesting rainwater? It is an absolute requirement. Second, every single poor home should have a solar heater," Frost said.

He said houses owned by the rich should also have solar heating and rainwater tanks, but he had singled out poor houses because they were being built on a massive scale.

"There should not be one household which does not make use of the bounty God gave us."

All water in South Africa should be recycled, he said.

Frost said people could reduce water consumption once they understood the amount of hidden water in everyday consumer goods.

Source: www.capetimes.co.za


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