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Govt ups attempts to conserve water

by Vivian Warby
on 23 Jun 2009
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

Government is going full out in its attempt to conserve water to avoid the country running out of this resource in the future.

Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, said today that a number of programmes would be embarked on this year to avoid such a crisis in South Africa, which is a water scarce country.

Speaking at a media briefing in Cape Town this morning, the minister said amongst others, the department would look at diversifying the country's water sources.

It would also look at exploring other sources of supply such as desalination of sea water in coastal areas and the strengthening of effluent reuse.

"Hopefully, we will engage with mining and industry to ensure they do something to recycle water they use," said the minister.

She said that government would also act "harshly and decisively against defaulters and punish wrongdoers".

The act to establish the green scorpions, under which the blue scorpions to monitor water crimes will be included, is almost completed.

Environmental courts would also be established within eight months. "One of our big issues is to enforce compliance with the law.

"The prospect of a single enforcement unit from the possible integration of Blue and Green Scorpions will strengthen our resolve against wrongdoers.

"We will ensure, through the 'polluter pays' principle, that behaviours such as pollution, illegal water use, for example, do not go unpunished," she said.

The minister said it was still being determined how much water agriculture, which made up for about 62 percent of water usage, was wasted as well as how much of the water was being illegally extracted.

"We need to quantify the impact of this. A big issue is enforcement. We are engaging farmers so that we can have a mutual understanding of how to deal with the matter. This is not an easy process. It is a difficult situation and there is a lot of hostility," she said.

She added that the department was also looking closely at the issue of single purpose dams, some of which are allocated within communities that have no ready access to water.

"We have completed studies in areas like Tuang and we are ready to re-commission the dam so it can be used to also benefit the community. We will do this throughout the country where such needs exist," she said.

The minister further said that water needed to be distributed equally. "Another point that we are looking at is how good water is being used by golf courses to sprinkle their lawns, while some communities do not have any water. Water needs to be used as effectively as possible in this country," she said.

There is a real danger that areas in the country could run out of water in the next few years. "We are a water scarce country and our water resources are finite. We cannot afford an uncoordinated programme of blue-sky water-thirsty projects."

The minister said that a very important part of water security was infrastructure development. To this end the department would spend about R30 billion over the next five to eight year on the continued construction and establishment of 15 mega water resources infrastructure projects.

This would increase the capacity of existing water resources infrastructure to provide water to strategic installations such as the Eskom, Sasol, the mining sector and for domestic needs.

Other programmes government would embark on to ensure that the water resources are managed sustainably to meet future needs include intensifying public awareness about the value of water as well as curbing water losses by at least 20 percent in 2014. - BuaNews

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