Africa Water and Sanitation Local Authorities Network
  • Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for over a third of the world's 884 million people who still do not get their drinking water from improved sources.
  • 26% of Africa's population (244 million) has a piped water connection on their premises.
  • Africa has 9% of global freshwater resources, but 15% of the global population.
  • Almost 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa relies on a water source that is more than 30 minutes away from the household.

South African “Water shedding” – Drought Mitigation vs Adaptation

Southern Africa is experiencing one of the worst droughts in recorded history.  While El Nino means more rain in certain areas it has had the opposite effect in the already drier parts of Southern Africa. Climate change has emphasised the impact of El Nino, with Local Authorities struggling to maintain a consistent flow of water to its residents. To date five provinces have been declared drought disaster zones in South Africa; North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Free State. Due to the lack of rain, municipalities has resorted to restricting water use and cutting the supply water for several hours on certain days – coined water shedding.

"Our dams are running dry and there is little water and we all have to help each other," Khojane Madiba (Moqhaka Local Municipality spokesperson)

Minister Nomvula Mokonyane earlier this month said the drought currently affected some 173 of the 1 628 water supply schemes nationally, serving approximately 2.7 million households.

“It is of utmost importance that we change lifestyle habits in times of crisis to ensure our future generations inherit a country with a sustainable and safe water supply," – Lester Goldman (WISA Chief Executive)

Neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Botswana have been hit equally hard by the current drought with water shedding measures having been implemented for quite some time. Reports on low water levels in Lake Kariba, the Zambezi River and Lake Ngami has been seen across social media platforms for the past couple of months. With severe dry conditions getting worse every day and the hopes of a substantial rainy season unlikely to be realised, efforts are afoot to save as much water as possible. Stronger awareness for resource conservation has never been more critical as water availability will only become more constrained. Local Authorities currently need to mitigate the impacts of climate change and it is not coming cheap. 

“The Department of Water and Sanitation has taken the following measures to mitigate against the impact of the current drought: R352.6m initially and an additional R96.6m set aside to intensify and mitigate the effects of drought in KZN alone” - Minister Nomvula Mokonyane

Plans have now been announced that an 180km long, R4.5 billion, pipeline will be built from the Gariep Dam to the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality in the Free State. This type of initiative is not new since the Orange River, originating in Lesotho, has been utilised to bring relief to a vast diversity of areas in South Africa for decades. Gauteng Province receives water from the Orange River basin via the Lesotho Highlands Hydro water scheme and the Eastern Cape via the Sundays River Transfer scheme to name a few. The mighty Orange River might again be called to serve yet another area beyond the reach of its wide natural network, and in doing so possibly limit the severity of water shedding for most southern parts of the Free State.

The current drought conditions emphasises not only mitigation but adaptation from Government and Local Authorities for a climate resilient future. Water is a scarce resource which should be conserved by all citizens.

Further Reading: http://www.infrastructurene.ws/2015/11/16/r2-billion-water-pipeline-planned-for-free-state/, http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Well-run-out-of-water-soon-20151104 and http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/free-state-water-shortage-intensifies-20151111