Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

South Africa will run out of water by 2013, says Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks.

Former water affairs director-general Mike Muller, who now works at the University of the Witwatersrand, warned last month that Gauteng would run out of water in 2013.

He said the government was not taking the crisis seriously.

Yesterday's admission by Hendricks was the first official confirmation that by 2013 water demand will outstrip supply in South Africa.

Her announcement comes less than two weeks after the government's scientific research unit, the CSIR, suspended researcher Anthony Turton just before he was to deliver a presentation on South Africa's water crisis to a conference of scientists.

Turton was planning to say "South Africa has run out of surplus water, with 98 percent of it already allocated".

Turton's presentation said that many rivers and dams were so polluted that they could no longer dilute effluent discharged into them.

Yesterday Hendricks said farmers along the banks of the Vaal River were "unlawfully using 180 million cubic metres" of water a year.

"The major perpetrators are farmers," she said.

"Some of them do have water authorisation but what they are doing is extracting more than they are authorised to extract."

She said the Blue Scorpions would clamp down on mining companies "who are also illegal water users and who discharge waste into our water resources".