South Africa is a country located at the Southern Tip of Africa. About twice the size of Texas it is home to 49 million people. This country has been stricken by affects from the long standing apartheid to the devastation that diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB have caused. Now another crisis looms in the distance: Water. As more and more people migrate into cities from rural villages the pressure for the city to meet the water demands is ever increasing.
There are many reasons that attribute to this growing water crisis in South Africa. Climate change has affected water supplies within the region. Rains that usually come and supply the country's water has come infrequently. For example in Durban the Dams are 20 percent lower than at the start of 2010. Due to this fact cities are looking to impose water restrictions on communities.
Another problem that Durban in particular faces is stolen water. According to one report 35 percent of the cities water is stolen or given out through illegal connections.
Also, preventative measures that were put in place such as the construction of dams in the area have not even started or are still in the process of being built and those structures that are in place now are slowly collapsing. Those in rural areas still lack access to water. One report stated that in 2008 about 5 million people lack access to water and 15 million lack access to basic sanitation. This number has improved greatly since the end of apartheid in 1994, however these numbers are still too high and not one person should ever lack access to the most basic necessity of life, which is water.
Interestingly enough South Africa boast one of the most clean water systems in the world, however due to the lack of sanitation and access in the country's rural communities the threat of water borne disease is steadily increasing. The Vaal River, the largest river in South Africa and popular tourist destination is becoming increasingly contaminated with fecal material due to the lack of sanitation supplies. It is so bad that the local water agency Rand Water issued a statement that contact with the river may lead to serious infection. Wildlife is also being affected from the raw sewage run off. A court-ordered mandate was issued to remove 20 tons of dead fish from the river after a local NGO SAVE (Save the Vaal River Environment) took the Emfuelni munincipilty to court for leaking raw sewage into the river. They blamed the reason for dumping sewage in the river on old pipes.
Overall, infrastructure is lacking, whether or not it is old pipes or ignorance the South Africa water crisis is here and affecting millions. There has been a backlog in services since the end of apartheid and that needs to change. The national and local governments of South Africa need to do a better job of offering services to their people. Supplies need to be given to those most in need. By taking care of the rural population the government will be helping the cities, because it is these rural communities where the damage to the water supply is beginning due to lack of access to sanitation supplies and clean water education.
- This article first appeared in The Water Project website.
Photo Courtesy: Sandestin Foundation for Kid