Chapter 2 of the Constitution under Section 27 gives every South African the right to sufficient water. I suspect that those of us who are fortunate enough to have sufficient access don’t always realize exactly how difficult life can be without it.
Imagine not being able to wash your body, your clothes, your food or cutlery. This, of course, has serious health and other implications. You become more vulnerable to diseases. It becomes difficult to find employment when you and your clothes are dirty, and, you inevitably become trapped in a spiral of poverty.
Access to water is, of course, not the only contributing factor, and access to sufficient food, education as well as opportunities brought about by economic growth, are also major contributors to poverty. (Food security and industrial as well as agricultural development are naturally also closely tied to access to sufficient water.)
Nevertheless it has occurred to me that where water is concerned the working and middle classes are probably more vulnerable than they realise.
South Africa is a water scarce country. However, as much as 37% of our water is lost through leaks. To worsen matters by 2015, 80% of the country’s water resources will apparently be so badly polluted that they could not be made fit for consumption again.
In other words the Constitutional Right to sufficient water may very well be denied even more people.
While the protection of citizens’ Constitutional Rights is mainly the responsibility of government it did, however, occur to me that at least to some extent the protection of the rights it defines dependent on how we, as South African citizens, act.
So, what am I driving at? You and I can help address looming water shortages by doing a couple of simple things – don’t pollute, report polluters, deal with water leaks at your home, report water leaks in areas where municipalities are responsible and manage your own water consumption.
So, it’s quite simple, by making a couple of changes, you and I can ensure that more South Africans (including ourselves) have access to safer water for longer.