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The Water Crisis in South Africa

We need to act now to change the future of Water in South Africa.

Water is Life

As cliche as the saying goes “Water is life”, no words could be more true not only in the South African context but on the African continent as a whole. As we start a new decade the challenges of the past have not been left in the past. Many studies show that by the start of the next decade South Africa will face the biggest water crisis the country has ever witnessed if we don’t act now.

Today, 785 million people – 1 in 9 – lack access to safe water and 2 billion people – 1 in 3 – lack access to a toilet and at Kusini Water these are the people whose lives we impact.

The Water Crisis hits home, here in South Africa

*According to a WWF study:

Even though South Africa fully relies on rain water as the number one water source at 490mm per year, this is half the world average. Our rainfall is highly seasonal, with greater variability in the dry interior. Therefore this water sourcing is unsustainable, we therefore need to find alternate solutions and develop an understanding of sustaining other water sources, such as groundwater sources which are key to solving water challenges.

Currently only 15% of the country’s total water consumption is obtained from groundwater sources and very often the communities that depend on groundwater have no other viable sources. The biggest challenges these communities face is sustaining these sources, ensuring quality and effectively distributing to the community.*

Water-related diseases

There are many different infectious water-related diseases, including gastroenteritis, amoebiasis, salmonellosis, dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever and hepatitis. Diarrhoea is a common symptom of these diseases which can become a major health hazard in regions without well-managed sanitation, where fecal material and non-treated sewage gets into the water supplies.

Nearly 1 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases which could be reduced with access to safe water or sanitation. Every 2 minutes a child dies from a water-related disease. Access to safe water and sanitation contributes to improved health and helps prevent the spread of infectious diseases. This means reduced child and maternal mortality rates.

A children's and education crisis

Children are often responsible for collecting water for their families. This takes time away from school and play and access to safe water and sanitation changes this. Reductions in time spent collecting water have been found to increase school attendance, especially for girls. Access to safe water gives children time to play and opportunity for a bright future.

What Are Some of the Solutions to the Water Crisis

Increase Awareness: Most recent data from The Department of Water Affairs shows that South Africa had an average total water consumption of 184 litres per person per day. But elsewhere in village after village in sub-Saharan Africa women walk miles to scoop water from polluted ground wells for their average daily ration of less than 20 litres a day. When Cape Town experienced the so-called “day zero” crisis a few years ago it was the local governments effective communication that prevented the unthinkable (Cape Town becoming the first big city to run out of water), companies, industries and big water users will need to give more to the communities they operate in, national government will need to show the impact water usage has for all communities.

Decentralization is the future: with over 1 in 10 people without access to safe drinking water communities will be more and more reliant on their own local water sources, we need to find, sustain and purify groundwater sources that are distributed locally, groundwater sources which are key to solving these issues.

Collective Action: It is up to active citizens, local companies and government to ensure water conservation, water provision and giving to communities most affected by lack of access to safe water and sanitation.


*World Health Organization and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme. (2017). Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, 2017 Update and MDG Assessment.

Water: Facts and Future: Rethinking South Africa’s Water Future: Christine Colvin, Dean Muruven, David Lindley, HelenGordon, Klaudia Schachtschneider

World Health Organization. (2016). “Children: Reducing Mortality.” World Health Organization, Sept. 2016.*

Posted in All, General, Water on Jan 19, 2020

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