Minister warns of crisis over water demand

SOUTH Africa could face a "near crisis situation" with its water supply within the next decade if urgent steps are not taken, Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said

"It's quite worrying," she said.

Experts warn that increasing demand for water will place severe strain on the ability to supply this finite resource.

Treasury's 2012 budget review says without better management South Africa will start running out of water 13 years from now.

An amount of R75-billion has been allocated over the next three years to address the problem.

Molewa said action needed to be taken sooner rather than later.

"We don't want to wait until we have a situation like we have with electricity."

Various initiatives include phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project to supply an additional 151million cubic metres of water to the Vaal River by 2020.

The department was also looking at developing ground water, as well as coastal desalination plants, although the latter would be expensive.

Another option was a "realignment" of water prices and the department had drawn up a draft tariff review programme.

Each year water boards applied for and set their own tariffs for agricultural and industrial users.

"This inequality is what we want to address... we really think this is not on."

Molewa said the problems of leaks in water supply systems also needed to be addressed. In some areas, up to 41% of water supplied was being lost.

Further, a major "behavioural change" was needed in the way South Africans used and consumed water.

"If we don't act, we will face a near crisis situation in the future." . - Sapa

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