Who is using all the water in South Africa?

 ·18 Nov 2015

While Gauteng has briefly enjoyed some much needed rainfall (and hail), the water crisis in the country is expected to continue into 2016.

South Africa has experienced little to no rainfall since the beginning of the year, and as a result, drought conditions are being experienced across the country.

To date, five provinces are severely affected by the drought and have been declared disaster areas, with KwaZulu Natal the worst affected. Other provinces include Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.

According to the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWA), South Africa experienced its worst drought in 1983 with the national average dam level at 34.0%.

“Currently our national average dam level is sitting at 63.3%. This means that our regional water supply dams and schemes remain water secure sitting with positive water balance,” it said.

South Africa receives an annual rainfall of 492 millimetres, close to half of the global average of 985 millimetres. It is therefore classified as a water-stressed nation.

To compound matters, the country’s water distribution is split between east and west – 43% of South Africa’s total rainfall occurs on only 13% of the land according to the DWA.

The DWA forecast in the mid-2000s that water demand would outstrip supply in Gauteng by 2013 – and the rest of the country by 2025 – but little has been done by industry and individuals to curb water wastage.

Water levels in South Africa in 2015

Water levels in South Africa in 2015

Who’s using all the water

There are six major water use sectors, namely, irrigation, urban use, rural use, mining and bulk industrial, power generation, and afforestation.

Studies done by the department show that the vast majority of water in South Africa is used in agriculture, with over 60% of all available water going into the sector for irrigation.

As much as 30% of water in SA is for urban and rural use (including domestic use), while the rest is split among industrial, power generation and afforestation uses.

Sector %
Irrigation 59.0%
Urban use 25.1%
Mining and Bulk Industrial use 5.7%
Rural use 4.3%
Afforestation 3.7%
Power Generation 2.2%

About 12% of all water is used for domestic (home) use, in the country.

Urbanisation is a major problem – putting pressure on water systems, while  growing cities leads to deforestation and an increase of pollution, which ruins water quality, too.

While the profiles for rural and urban home use of water are very different, flushing toilets is the biggest water user in both areas.

Domestic Use Rural Urban
Toilets 73% 37%
Bath and Shower 19% 32%
Washing Machine N/A 17%
Other (Cooking, Cleaning, Washing Dishes, Drinking, etc) 8% 14%

Looking at homes with gardens, up to 46% of all water is used up taking care of it.

Homes with Gardens %
Gardening 46%
Other (See above) 54%

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