#WaterWatch

How to stop South Africa's billion rand water loss

At the Water Indaba held this week in Cape Town, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane announced that South Africa is up to R7 billion in water losses annually.

The dams are standing currently at 77.2% full, up from last year's 54%, but several provinces still face severe water challenges.

Prof. Anthony Turton, Professor at the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of Free State is on the line to talk about the Water Indaba he attended.

This R7 billion is linked to their water trading facility within the department, and the number is contested because the auditor has highlighted this as being the number and the department is saying it is not in deficit to this effect.

Prof. Anthony Turton, Professor at the Centre for Environmental Management, University of Free State

Turton says he would go with the Auditor General's figures and so believes there is a shortfall of about R7 billion.

The significance of this is that the central water trading account is what is used to balance the flow of water at a national level. So one water management area can buy or sell water to another water management area in times of drought or in times of abundance.

Prof. Anthony Turton, Professor at the Centre for Environmental Management, University of Free State

This is, therefore, a central component in the sustainable management of our resource which is becoming increasingly important as the resource becomes more scarce.

We must distinguish between the rhetoric and the reality. Now the rhetoric is that if there is water scarcity we must change our consumption patterns. We understand that. So how do we change the patterns? ...We have to have that driven at a high strategic level as a policy reform initiative, at a Cabinet level.

Prof. Anthony Turton, Professor at the Centre for Environmental Management, University of Free State

He says we need economic structural reform so that we recycle all the water in the economy.

At the moment we tend to use the water once and then flush it away as waste and never consume it again. This is one of those big behavioural changes we are going to have to undergo in the next decade.

Prof. Anthony Turton, Professor at the Centre for Environmental Management, University of Free State

And droughts are not ending he says.

Data of El Nino events shows there is an absolutely clear steady upward trend in the max and min temps of sea level of the Pacific Ocean and it is directly related to the severity of droughts and floods in our part of the world. And that will not stop, he says.

Take a listen to how Prof Turton believes operations and management of water supplies could help lessen the losses:

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