All of South Africa’s major cities face water restrictions in the next 5 years

There is a high risk of water restrictions being imposed in all of South Africa’s metropolitan areas over the next five years, with restrictions currently in place in six of the eight metros, says the government.

Writing in the national infrastructure plan 2050, which was published by public works and Infrastructure minister Patricia De Lille on Friday (11 March), the government warned that seven out of 13 major water systems could be in deficit in 2040. Although interventions have been identified for all the major water systems, decisions and implementation have been delayed, it said.

“According to the National Water and Sanitation Master plan, in the absence of timely interventions, the demand for water will exceed the available supply at the planned level of assurance by between 1,6 billion and 2,7 billion cubic metres by 2030, a deficit of around 10% to 15% of required water.”

It added that addressing South Africa’s water management challenges will not get easier.

“Water demands will continue to grow as a result of economic growth, urbanisation and rising standards of living. Non-agricultural water demands are projected to increase by more than 40% between 2020 and 2050, much of this driven by an increase in demand for water in urban areas.”

Simply to maintain current crop yields, irrigated water use – which accounts for 60% of current use 0 may need to grow by a further six percentage points, it said.

“Increases in irrigated area will need to be achieved through a combination of expanded water availability and more efficient use of existing water use rights. Water use in South Africa’s urban areas is high and there are high levels of non-revenue water and water losses.”

It added that water quality is declining in the rivers and wetlands are being degraded as a result of increases in pollution from urban, industrial, mining and agricultural activities, reducing water availability and increasing treatment costs.

“Of particular concern is the poor state and performance of wastewater treatment plants. Many plants are under-capacity and have been poorly maintained. This has significant economic impacts, particularly for downstream users.”


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All of South Africa’s major cities face water restrictions in the next 5 years