'Future wars will be fought over water'
This is the view of leading water scientist Dr Willem de Klerk from Stellenbosch University’s Water Institute. The institute predicts the next major wars will be fought over access to water.
The “Big Six” dams supplying water to the Western Cape were 33% full on average this week, bordering on running on reserves starting at 30%.
While the province is crossing fingers that the winter rains start soon and head off the water crunch, De Klerk said the province’s water crisis was forever, no matter how hard rain might fall in the winter. “We will never reach a situation where we will get out of the crisis. There is no turning back,” said De Klerk.
“If your car was clean, your swimming pool full and your plants and grass weren’t dying, you are a water offender,” De Klerk said.
He said the homeless would be most grateful for a R1000 reward, which he suggested should be paid to anyone who tipped off authorities about water offences, leading to a conviction.
De Klerk and the head of the department of urban water management at UCT, Neil Armitage, told Weekend Argus each person who defied water restrictions was no better than a common criminal.
Thousands of people should band together to form communities with the sole intent of saving water, De Klerk urged.
“Water stewardship is what we need and don’t have. Every single person must take responsibility for saving water. Yet people water their gardens as if nothing’s wrong”.
In Stellenbosch, a directive had been issued to security officers ordering them to report offenders to council immediately, said De Klerk.
De Klerk said his household saved each drop of water it could and used grey water inside and outside.
He said the National Water Affairs Department was currently “bankrupt” and the government focused more on land than water “but you can do nothing on land if there’s no water”.
Professor Armitage said: “We’re in the middle of a severe crisis. Maybe people think it’s a joke. We’re heading for bottom dry now. Even if we survive this year, we won’t next year if it doesn’t rain enough to bring the water levels up to at least 60%.”
People needed to abandon their gardens in favour of, staying alive, he said.
“Measures may become draconian in the extreme, with the city obliged to water shed or shut the pipes down.”
Armitage warned watershedding was worse than loadshedding.
“If you don’t have electricity, you can swear about it, put some candles on and hold a braai.
“But lack of water could kill people. Fires can’t be fought as no water will come out of a hydrant.
“Sanitation will collapse. If water pipes are closed, it will suck up sewerage and groundwater. Diseases will break out. There should always be water under pressure in the pipes.
“A person needs four to five litres of water a day to survive and we’re using on average 200l per person per day. I ask myself: ‘Why waste water so much?’”