In 2008 Professor Roland Schulze a world expert on water research from UKZN was asked a few questions in the Financial Mail about water security and climate change. Back then he highlighted a few key issues that everybody in South Africa should have taken note off. They were:
- A key shortage of skills in the water industry, especially at government and municipal level
- Climate changes that are happening
- If the above was not considered and acted upon pro actively, South Africa will start to experience water shortages in future.
Five years later you have to look at the situation and ask yourself if what he said was true? At strategic level there has been a lot of planning to ensure that South Africa has sufficient water. If it means pumping and piping it to areas that have shortages, it is going to happen. But that is where it stops! At municipal level the infrastructure has been neglected to such an extent that 40% off all water supplied to the Metro's are being lost due to leaks and illegal use.
Listen to the news and you frequently hear about smaller towns that have run out of water! Bigger city sections are left without water for hours and days because of burst pipes.
Raw sewerage is flowing into rivers, that flow to dams, where cities and town get their water from!
As a result of this, many small towns in South Africa have been rationed with water and only receive water supply for a few hours a day - or should we call it "water shedding"
The question is what do we do about it?
Gone are the days when you can just open the tap and always expect good quality water pouring out in unlimited supply. Home and business owners would have to realise that they should play an active part in managing and controlling their water resources. Just have a look at the number of backup generators and solar panels that were installed after 2008.
Our recommendations are relatively simple:
- Do a complete assessment of your water usage and requirement. Low volume plumbing fittings can make an enormous difference and reduce water consumption by 30%.
- Consider installing a backup water supply - you can go without power for 2 days - but can you go without water for 2 days?
- Look for alternative sources of water at your premises i.e. rainwater harvesting and/or gray water recovery. In high rainfall areas like KZN some households and institutions have become completely independent from municipal water and only use it as a backup - in case of drought.
The benefits of the above is three-fold.
- It starts taking the pressure off the current water infrastructure. Imagine if 30% of the households in coastal cities harvest rainwater - how much pressure it will take of the current infrastructure and give it an extended life.
- As a household and business it provides a sense of security knowing that you can operate when the main water supply has been interrupted.
- You get a return on your investment. The cost of water will continue to increase ahead of inflation (ESKOM scenario). Installing effectively designed rainwater harvesting systems have a payback period of 5 to 6 years at current water prices.
In conclusion - a combination backup water and rainwater harvesting system can only be a good future investment to secure your water supply.