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DWS dedicates March as National Water Month – observing World Water Day 2024

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) will embark on its advocacy programmes in March, as part of the National Water Month which is conceptualised along the annual commemoration of World Water Day spearheaded by the United Nations (UN) and to be observed on 22 March 2024.

The UN uses World Water Day seeks to focus attention on the global water crisis and raise awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water and aspire nations for longer-term action, to ensure that everyone in the world has access to safe water by 2030, while not impacting the environment. The day is also used to bring attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

This year’s theme is “Leveraging Water for Peace”, which encourages communities and countries to use water as a tool for peace, when cooperating over this precious shared resource.  The theme also highlights that water can spark and intensify conflict when access is denied and usage unfairly shared.

During this year’s National Water Month commemorations, the Department calls on all South Africans to effect this change and to make a difference by changing the way they use, consume, and manage water in their respective lives.

South Africa is a dry and water-scarce country with an average annual rainfall of 470 mm compared to global annual average of 814 mm. Thus, it has limited water availability which is diminishing as compared to other countries. Meanwhile South Africa consumes approximately 237 litres per day than the world average of approximately 173 litres per day.  

The Department has projected the estimates of water deficit to be between 2,700 and 3,800 million m3/a, by 2030. The National Water Month will be used to reflect and deliver the Department’s mandate in response to these challenges, with the strategies to avoid the projected deficit.

Although water supply availability is currently approximately in balance with existing water demands in the country, there are however localised deficits and surpluses of water.

Most of the large water supply systems in the country are stressed and these challenges are because of economic and population growth, urbanisation, inefficient use (including increasing loss of water in municipal distribution systems), degradation of wetlands, impacts of climate change. If water is not handled efficiently by water users in the country, its availability could deteriorate rapidly as supply of water becomes limited while the demand escalates.

As an intervention, the Department is implementing various new resource development projects in some parts of the country, as well as water conservation and water demand management programmes to ensure that there is sufficient water for supply.

These include opportunities for further water projects development in addition to current available surface water, such as leveraging on groundwater; desalination of sea water; return flows from treated waste-water systems as well as reuse of other poor-quality water such as acid mine drainage.

The Department has also implemented large-scale investment water resource development projects nationally, which are progressing relatively well.

The highlight of the National Water Month is the Ministerial launch of the Water and Sanitation Services Policy on Privately Owned Land to take place in KwaZulu-Natal province. Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu will launch this holistic policy with the intention of unifying and simplifying the provision and regulation of sustainable and equitable water services to residents living on privately owned land.

During these month-long activities, the Minister will also visit Giyani to assess the progress of the project. Four of the 24 villages will be receiving water from the Giyani Bulk Water Supply Scheme. The Minister has previously committed to accelerate the project through, among others, optimisation of the Giyani water treatment works to its original capacity and increase the project scope to ensure that 55 villages benefit from the scheme by allocating funds for reticulation and expanding access to yard connections. To this end, 24 villages are on various stages of construction and some of the villages will soon be receiving water in their taps.

Minister Mchunu will also meet with his four counterparts from Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, to sign the amendment of the Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM) by the four riparian states which share the Limpopo River Basin and use water from the river to support various socio-economic activities including agriculture, tourism, energy generation as well as for domestic use.

The agreement signed in 2003, will be amended to formalise the establishment of the LIMCOM Council of Ministers to be the main policy and decision-making body on transboundary, water resource management issues in the Limpopo River Basin.

Department of Water and Sanitation is working towards achieving water security and ensuring that water and sanitation services are managed effectively, and through the National Water Month, it encourages entities, roleplayers, partners and stakeholders as well as the general public to participate in a new orientation around the country’s water resources to ensure future sustainability.