Amid the country’s water shortage, water treatment plants that are not working, and lack of access to water for many in the agricultural sector, minister of water and sanitation Senzo Mchunu said 60% of water resources in the country is used by farmers. He called on them to use water sparingly.
‘We have no one to blame’
Mchunu said it is unacceptable to use any excuse to delay the delivery of quality water and safe sanitation. “It is therefore understandable that the public was alarmed by the sharp decline in drinking water quality,” he said.
Mchunu called a two-day summit to discuss the reports with relevant stakeholders and he has said that agriculture plays an important role in ensuring that there is safe water for everyone.
“Most of our water is consumed by agriculture; a large amount of it. That is something that we cannot do much about because the volume of water that crops and other agricultural uses demand is a huge amount.
“What is important is equality and that in their use of water among themselves, big and small, there must be equity and we are ensuring that through several transformation mechanisms,” he said.
Mchunu said one of the mechanisms the department has used was establishing irrigation boards. “We are establishing water use associations which are more localised and there are over 300 of them. We do this so that water use distribution is equitable.”
Using water sparingly
While it is acceptable that farmers use a bulk of water at large, Mchunu stressed that it does not mean that they should consume all the water and be reckless.
“The general message that we try to convey is that we are living in a water-scarce country. It might be raining for now, but we do not know what the case will be tomorrow.
“We remain a water-scarce country and everybody using water must do so sparingly,” Mchunu said.
Meanwhile, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Thabisile Nkadimeng, said it is important that agriculture as the food basket of the country is protected and municipalities need to come on board on how to ensure that water quality remains high and a good standard.
Municipalities need to up their game
Nkadimeng explained that water quality and the drawing of water are important, but mostly, preservation stands as a crucial matter municipalities need to investigate so that they can adopt conservation methods.
“We encourage farmers to continue with their patterns of conserving water. It has been raining and if our conservation levels in our municipalities are improved, we will have a lot of water to sustain ourselves in our households and the farming industry.
“Beyond the importance of the agricultural sector, water brings businesses like agritourism to municipalities, so municipalities must invest in good quality water which will have a return on investment and drive the economies,” she said.
Working on capacity
Meanwhile, the director general of the department of water and sanitation, Dr Sean Philips, said amid the water shortages in the country the department is involved in several projects to increase the size and number of dams.
Phillips said agriculture is using 60% of the raw water and in some parts of the country there is not enough raw water.
He said the reports the department had done are important and guide them on which focus areas need more attention in addressing the water shortage.
“What we focused on is whether the final processes providing drinking water to citizens are adequate and whether we provide safe drinking water to municipalities.
“For example, them raising the height of our dam walls on some of our dams, and this helps a lot with many areas of the country by making more water available to agriculture because those dams with raised dam walls will be able to store more water, which means that there will be large quantity of available water that can be used in agriculture, ” he said.
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