With failing water infrastructure and average dam levels hitting an all-time low, human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu calls on the agriculture sector to also take action before the taps run dry.
The water crisis is exacerbated by funding constraints, says Sisulu in an interview with Food For Mzansi. However, she believes “all sectors [must] ensure that they use water responsibly as the country is facing major droughts and is affected by climate change.”
Sisulu explains that the severe water crisis in South Africa was set in motion by various factors. This includes poor water infrastructure maintenance and investment, recurrent droughts, inequities in access to water and sanitation, deteriorating water quality, and rapid unplanned urbanisation.
Across the country, farming communities have been reporting water shortages. In the Eastern Cape, these communities are not only grappling with one of the most severe droughts on record, but also infrastructure issue.
Untreated sewage in river
Livestock farmers have raised alarm about the flow of untreated sewage into the Great Fish River. This causes livestock losses due to cryptosporidiosis, a waterborne disease caused by an intestinal parasite.
There has also been water shortages in a number of Mpumalanga communities. In a video posted by the DA, residents of Marble Hall can be seen trying to access water from holes in a ditch.
Sisulu says she is aware of these and other challenges faced by farming communities. This is due to a lack of money, she says. “Funding constraint is a very serious problem as it results in delayed implementation of measures to secure water availability.”
According to Sisulu the country need more than R120 billion in the next decade to ensure that the taps won’t run dry. “All the projects identified by the department will be used for residential and business [purposes], including mining and agriculture.”
She adds that water shortages will have a significant impact on the revival of the Mzansi economy. It also hinders social transformation which perpetuates poverty, says Sisulu.
“Key economic development sectors like mining, manufacturing, tourism, farming, human settlements and other industries are more likely to commit capital investments to areas where water, energy and transport are secure.”
Sisulu HAS prioritiseD a number of water infrastructure projects for the NEW financial year.
This includes the Vaal-Gamagara bulk water project with an estimated price tag of R10 billion. “The project entails the replacement of existing steel pipeline with a new pipeline to provide assurance of supply to the various mines, municipalities, agricultural sector and Transnet,” she says.
Furthermore, water shortages in the eThekwini Municipality, will reportedly
give a R23.3 billion injection into the uMkhomazi water project.
“Recent droughts in the area further exposed the current lack of resilience of the Umgeni water supply system, thus increasing the need for this project.”