Wasteful use of water violates human rights of others
It stands to reason that the failure to use our water resources prudently cannot be without dire consequences.
The recent downpours in Gauteng must be viewed only as a temporary relief in light of the crisis that has put a strain on the water supply in the Cape provinces and recently in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.
It is therefore hoped that these rainfalls are not taken as a sign to throw water management efforts out of the window. As other provinces continue to buckle under the weight of water shortages, Gauteng faces the same grim prospect of severe water scarcity, which is compounded by the fact that it does not have its own sources of water.
Just two years ago the severity of the drought led the Department of Water and Sanitation to release water from the Sterkfontein Dam in Free State into the Vaal Dam, where the levels had dropped to dangerous levels.
However, despite calls to conserve water, people are not responding as urgently as they should. To our detriment, we are still using sprinklers, washing cars using hosepipes and filling up swimming pools.
It must be realised that at the centre of the abuse of our depleting water resources is the egregious violation of the human rights of our fellow citizens. Using water without regard for others is tantamount to infringing one of their most elementary rights. We seem to forget that it is not the government alone that must respect and promote such basic rights but every one of us.
As the scourge of drought continues to spread, we need to recognise that Gauteng is likely to suffer the same fate as well.
This could attract risk to areas that are supplied by the Integrated Vaal River System. If this were to happen, it would be too ghastly to contemplate the impact on the economy of the province, which is responsible for a major contribution to the gross domestic product of the country.
Thus, our lukewarm attitude towards water conservation could put us in a very awkward situation.
In a seemingly bizarre justification for not saving water, a charge has been advanced by some sectors that not enough has been done to build infrastructure to store water. This assertion ignores the fact that role players, including the private sector, have not invested in this area, in which everyone needs to participate.
The government has to contend with a myriad of challenges, which affects its ability to use its resources optimally, as time and again it has to divert them for immediate demands such as providing relief.
A case in point is the need to cushion the blow arising from the current drought. In this regard, the government is channelling huge sums of funds for relief purposes, which could have been used to build infrastructure.
This is an unplanned activity for which the government has a duty to be responsible. It cannot shirk this responsibility. It has to intervene, and often this requires huge amounts of money, as shown by the recent price tag of more than R433-million announced for immediate drought relief.
Given that the country needs to put up water infrastructure that is commensurate with our envisaged economic growth, we cannot compound the challenge of our limited financial resources by wantonly using our depleting water resources.