Individual behaviour key to water security

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File photo: Oupa Mokoena

Johannesburg - It’s not about how much you have, it’s about how you manage it.

“We have a shortage of water, we are at that point,” according to councillor Pinky Moloi of the SA Local Government Association (Salga).

She said on Tuesday the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission was co-ordinating the building of dams to help address this.

Water Research Commission chief executive Dhesigen Naidoo said management of resources was the key.

“Water scarcity does not equal a crisis. There are many countries in the world that have even less rainfall than we do that are more water secure than we are. And there are many, many countries in the world that have much more rainfall than we do that are much less water secure than we are,” said Naidoo.

He said if a country had more water, there were more opportunities to be secure, but having less water didn’t rule out security.

He referred to the example of Karlsruhe in Germany, where every drop of water that passes by the city in the Rhine River has been used at least six times before going downstream.

“We have been water scarce forever… but we have been able to be water secure for a very long time and are likely to be much more water secure going into the future. It just depends on our water behaviour,” said Naidoo.

“We’re not tapping the resources that are available to us. Groundwater, for example, has the potential to fulfil at least 30 percent of our water supply needs.”

He said this referred only to groundwater that was replenishable, not “fossil water” that would be lost forever.

“The fundamental thing about water security is our ability to return to the resource water of high quality,” said Naidoo.

Salga’s William Moraka said the influx of people into cities put pressure on water and sanitation services.

He emphasised the need for individual responsibility in usage. “It might actually start with you and me,” said Moraka.

“Our consumption per capita is actually way, way above the average benchmark internationally.”

He said the three Gauteng metros were already collectively putting more than R500 million into water conservation to help avoid a crisis.

In the water delivery league, Cape Town and Ekurhuleni are top.

It sounds like a game, but it’s not - it’s the measurement of delivery by water services authorities that William Moraka of the SA Local Government Association is trying to popularise.

Moraka talks with enthusiasm of a “water services league” which aims for optimal performance through competitiveness.

“All municipalities must be affiliates of the league,” said Moraka.

Instead of goals, municipalities get points for water quality, effluent quality, audit reports, finances and asset management.

In the metros, Cape Town and Ekurhuleni top the league, and Mangaung is at the bottom.

In the big local municipalities, Tlokwe is tops.

The report is part of the Municipal Benchmarking Initiative, started in 2011, run by the association with the Water Research Commission and the Institute of Municipal Engineering of Southern Africa.

The benchmarking uses a web-based tool called Munibench, and it’s aimed at the country’s 152 water services authorities, which are responsible for the delivery of water and are usually the municipalities.

“Benchmarking has a special place. To measure is to know, to benchmark is to declare your intent, an intent to compare, to learn, and to improve,” said Dhesigen Naidoo, chief executive of the Water Research Commission.

OR Tambo District and Ndlambe Local municipalities are best at keeping track of their water: they had non-revenue water lost (water that should be paid for but isn’t) down to 4 percent.

The City of Cape Town tops the metros, with 20 percent non-revenue water lost. The national non-revenue water loss average is 33 percent, based on responses from 92 of the 152 water services authorities.

louise.flanagan@inl.co.za

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