Keeping South Africa’s taps running

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Keeping South Africa’s taps running

Our team in South Africa has been one of the driving forces behind a government-backed, multi-stakeholder initiative whose goal is to stop South Africa from going thirsty in the coming decades.

South Africa is water-stressed; it is currently ranked as the 30th driest country in the world, with annual rainfall levels about half the global average. In addition, the country’s water infrastructure struggles to meet the demand of a historically underserviced population. However, according to estimates from the 2030 Water Resources Group, unless significant action is taken, demand will outstrip supply by a factor of 17% in just 15 years, a scenario that could significantly impact the economic, social and environmental prosperity of the country.

The Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) brings together companies, government and non-governmental organizations to collectively work to find solutions to avert a potential water crisis by addressing critical water issues in South Africa, such as water conservation, demand management and developing more sustainable management of groundwater resources.

Our team in South Africa has played a key role in mobilizing the partnership’s different stakeholders and has been joined by a number of partners from the corporate sector, including Coca-Cola, Nestle, Sasol, Anglo American and BHPBilliton. Other funders include international bodies such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and GIZ. The South African government has also committed to contributing funds to the SWPN.

The SWPN has identified several areas where direct intervention could yield tangible results, and pilot projects are now underway. The most advanced pilot is called ‘No Drop’. As its name suggests, No Drop focuses on water efficiency and leakage reduction, targeting urban areas that account for a quarter of all water consumption in South Africa. Critically, these municipalities lose as much as a quarter of their water supplies through ineffective and leaky distribution systems.

No Drop’s scorecard system assesses and ranks municipalities on water lost and water used. South Africa’s eight major metropolitan municipalities, which between them account for 90% of lost municipal water in the country, have adopted the scorecard, and their performance data is being collected and analyzed to find opportunities to reduce water loss. There is plenty of work ahead for all the partners, but a successful outcome could close the nationwide 2030 water gap by as much as 22%.

Other pilot projects are also underway, among them an effluent and waste water management scheme focused on the mining industry. It’s still early, but with more partners now contributing financially as well as bringing their expertise to the table, SWPN is poised to make genuine strides towards preventing the 2030 predictions.


A version of this story was first published on on 22 June 2015