Water scarcity will hit SA, warn activists

2011-09-28 23:10

Cape Town - Lack of water and food in South Africa is a critical threat as climate change takes hold, environmental organisations have warned.

"It's very hard to stipulate one major threat because you’re dealing with such a diversity as climate change, but because you’d have such intense changes in the climate one of the biggest things we’re going to have to deal with is lack of water, and as a result, lack of food," Ferial Adams of Greenpeace Africa told News24.

The UN COP17 climate conference takes place in Durban in November and negotiators have been tasked with hammering out a binding deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol which is due to expire.

Key countries though, have rejected attempts to extend the protocol and the Cancún conference in Mexico descended into chaos when no binding deal was achieved.

Food production

"The one thing that the international community has agreed to is we need to keep the global average warming below 2°C. That might not sound like a lot, but bear in mind when the global average increases that much, parts of sub-Saharan Africa within certain regions, the average will increase 4°C to 5°C.

"That means a lot more evaporation of moisture from the soil and so a lot of challenges for agriculture, in particular," World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) climate change programme manager in South Africa, Richard Worthington, told News24.

The lack of water would have a profound effect on food production in SA, Greenpeace said.

"So major food insecurity and scarcity of water in a country that already has a lack of water," said Adams.

Pollution has been cited as one of the major causes of water scarcity and mining, in particular, has come under fire in Gauteng as that province grapples with the problem of acid mine water drainage.

"What is concerning is that the department continues to give these licences for big mines and doesn't do enough to hold them accountable for what they're doing.

"So it's not only the coal mining, but the gold mining, and we've seen the acid mine drainage as a result," said Adams.


Earthlife Africa suggested that because of high consumption by industrialised economies, the planet's pollution load was distributed unevenly.

"If you worked out the pollution load on the planet and shared it equally among every human being on the planet, to reach parity, China would be allowed to double its emissions and the US would be required to drop its emissions by 60%.

"We're not suggesting China double its emissions, but what we're saying is that the playing field is not level. And when you consider that, the vast majority of China's production and emissions is actually for the consumption of the north, then the actual footprint in the north is much higher than stipulated," said Muna Lakhani, Cape Town branch co-ordinator for Earthlife Africa.

The rate at which the ice shelves melted was of concern, said Worthington.

"Most of the sea level rise that is included in the predictions relates to global expansion. What we have less certainty about is the rate at which we lose ice shelves.

"If we get accelerated ice shelf loss which the science is suggesting, sea level rise could be a lot quicker from all of that water stored in global regions entering the oceans."


Countries vulnerable to climate change like the Maldives have appealed to the UN to accelerate the release of promised funds to help those countries take the actions necessary to mitigate climate change.

Water scarcity in SA will have a devastating impact, particularly on the poor, Greenpeace said.

"You have to do a comparison in terms of how much water people are using and we've got millions of people in South Africa who still don't have access to proper clean water and that is a concern," said Adams.

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  • jspaey - 2011-09-29 01:44

    Does anyone remember the Ozone Layer doom prophets of the late 80s? Now we have the 'OMG Climate Change' prozelytes. I truly wish that climate change was the biggest concern this country was facing but Malema already has first dibs.

      Hugh - 2011-09-29 07:46

      We have abigger problem in SA. I suggest the commentators on this forum get off their bums and attend some of the regional COP17 summits before the main event. To start at these summits the SA government talks about energy and climate change. In mitigation of climate change they talk about anything that can have a price tag attached. For example carbon credits and tax. Nothing so far has been mentioned about water or what we are doing to mitigate water shortages besides costly plants such as water desalination - note the price tag. They refuse point blank to talk about or implement a national rain water harvesting scheme because their secret research shows that - sorry for the repeat - that RWH will affect the municipal and in turn water boards money stream. They refuse to call or accept that RWH is a national water resource saving preferring to tell us about the new dams and desalination plants. The example I use in support of RWH is this in Durban metro there is some 400km sq roof catchments using the rule of thumb formulea 1 sq metre area x 1 mm rain = 1 litre of harvested water means that in one 20mm rain 800 million litres of water will be saved and remain in the dames for drought or limited rain fall. Imagine if that was applied nationally. As the sometimes seemingly loan voice at the summits I need everyone to become aware of the reality and not accpet these grand money making schemes and use the free God given water.

      Grayman - 2011-09-29 07:56

      @Hugh: The 'green' movement will never be driven by government for two reasons. The first is exactly as you pointed out - they will lose revenue. The second is that they are just too damn lazy. It is interesting that 'green' buildings in 1st world countries are being driven by economics. Business has discovered that the savings in running costs on a cleverly designed building with RWH and renewable energy outweigh the initial capital expenditure. So it has less to do with the 'I'm a good fellow for looking after the environment' and more to do with 'Look at the money I save.'

      pseudo - 2011-09-29 08:03

      are you joking? An international agreement (Montreal Protocol) was made to remove CFCs from products which use them, and replace these with non-ozone-depleting equivalents. This was later strengthened as there was overwhelming evidence in favour of the ozone depletion hypothesis. Irononically your example of the ozone layer is EXACTLY what we should be doing about climate change and what most countries are trying to achieve. the main difference is that the ozone industry was not as powerful as the oil and gas industry is now and the costs of adapting to a low carbon economy are higher than those of adapting to a low ozone economy.

      Hugh - 2011-09-29 08:09

      @grayman I agree but this is not green movement. It is the reality of a real water shortage where we in for instance KZN are using 15% more water than is flowing into dams. Be sure that there is already under the table legislation [24 in fact] they they can apply if you us "other source water" such as bylaws where only municipal water may be used to flush a toilet or if you water consumption drops and they see you are using RWH they can charge you a flat rate based on historical use. RWH harvesting will have to be enforced but those who support my goals within government know that government is reactive not proactive no matter the eveidence. Another school of thought is that like the electricity debacle they will wait until it is too late then use the Grand desalination schemes to ensure that the money stream is improved by way of taxes.

      Madoqua - 2011-09-29 08:12

      My biggest gripe with climate change skeptics is not whether they are right or wrong in their views, but if they are just looking for excuses to avoid responsibility. If reducing carbon emissions means that I can breath easier, because there is less smog over the city, then something has been achieved. I do however feel that people like jspaey jump on the bandwagon and soapbox so they can wash their hands in innocence in the deluded view that nothing is actually happening to our environment. Sure, there is a lot of misinformation, selective interpretation of science and statistics and blatant propaganda and politicking involved in the climate change campaign. There is also the school of thought that looks at the geological timescale and we realize we have lived in a balmy climate bubble for the last 10 000 years since the last ice age and we are overdue for a change. This does not mean we should ignore the facts and good science that points to problems we are experiencing and others that are still to come. Innocence and ignorance is no longer and excuse.

      Hugh - 2011-09-29 08:13

      Sorry I yet again failed to READ what I had written

      Madoqua - 2011-09-29 08:32

      Oh, and jspaey: You idiot! The reason the ozone layer is no longer in the news everyday, is because governments around the world took decisive action to reduce CFC's and thus reduce the human impact on the ozone layer and it worked. It is still and issue and its still important and we are by no means out of the woods. It was not a hoax or fabrication or the deluded fantasy of a few scientists.

      Badballie - 2011-09-29 11:24

      spot on, Climate change is a fact, the idea that man can change or control it is a fallacy. People need to accept that no matter what they do they will not change the inevitable, The only way to ensure survival is to control population growth. the land is being used to feed more than it can support.

  • AMS-Dammer - 2011-09-29 05:22

    Since taking power in 1994, the ANC has SIMPLIFIED the SEWERAGE SYSTEM in South Africa.... they PUMP THE RAW SEWRAGE DIRECT INTO THE RIVERS... So much easier than treating the SEWRAGE at a Plant.... costs less too and NO MAINTENANCE REQUIRED!!!!

      DW - 2011-09-29 09:05

      They were warned about the rising acid mine water 10 years ago and did nothing about it. One of the reasons for closing down CRG Mine (besides bad management) was the rising acid water which made it unsafe to mine. Thousands lost their jobs. The acid water is now starting to damage the World Heritage Site at Sterkfontein, potentially damaging fossils which are millions of years old. And they just keep milking the system, making more and more money for their fat wallets and fat wives. They could not care less. Dont think they are now going to react to warning that we are going to run out of water. They just keep promising water and electricity to their voters. Dont expect them to work out where it is supposed to come from. It doesnt matter. They have no intention of keeping those promises in any case

  • Kered - 2011-09-29 06:25

    @Really, where would South Africa be without WHITE expertise, investment and entrepeneurship? You my friend, and all your black brothers would be out of a job with absolutely no prospect of decent and healthy survival. Be thankful that there was WHITE colonialism.

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 07:31

      Do you not know anything about pre-colonial African history? There was a pretty decent and healthy lifestyle which was practised by the heterogeneous African communities well before my ancestors got here. Pick up a book sometime and enrich your life, rather than throw around silly baseless remarks that hold no granules of truth.

      sniperman - 2011-09-29 09:07

      And these problems only started because thousands of years ago some dude laughed at his drunk daddy

      Mebob - 2011-09-29 09:51

      Before white man got here, people were running around naked.They did not pay taxes and women did all the work while the men hunted and drank beer. You think you got a better solution?

  • Honestly - 2011-09-29 06:27

    Good, another Somalia in the making.

      LBS - 2011-09-29 16:29

      And it's coming sooner than we think with all our Farmers driven off their lands one way or the other.

  • beicime - 2011-09-29 07:02

    No nation is interested in increasing their production costs and be at a competitive disadvantage. One would think that these conferences would help to level the playfield but it is not happening. As for water we can only save but food production levels could be increased. Nevertheless South Africa is implementing policies (land redistribution) that will reduce drastically food production which by the way needs water.

  • greg156 - 2011-09-29 07:15

    @Really Look how "good" the rest of the african countries are doing without the white people to show them how a country needs to be run

      Lebo - 2011-09-29 10:12

      And look how good the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Irealand and Greece) are doing? If you thought things are bad in Africa my friend, the outlook in Europe is worse with no hope in sight (no minerals to talk about).

      greg156 - 2011-09-29 15:38

      @Lebo Last time I checked most of the people had food to eat and their living conditions are still way better than that of any african country!

  • Thatguyoverthere - 2011-09-29 07:17

    WWF is not a reliable commentator on this. They are an advocate group and they advocate a return to a non industrial world. They also lie, a lot. Sea level has not increased over the last two years and prior to that the rate of increase has not accelerated over the last 250 years.

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 07:33

      The sea level has risen significantly since the Little Ice Age ended. Consult a Greenland Ice Core for your information, why don't you? Additionally, the snowline in Switzerland has risen 90m in the last hundred years. I'll let you figure out what that means on your own.

      Honestly - 2011-09-29 07:56

      @CT Scientist. You sound like one of those Greenpiece pricks. They have nothing better to do with their time. Why don't you all get decent jobs and do an honest days work?

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 08:08

      @ Honestly: Not a "Greenpiece prick", mate. Only someone with access to a broad body of knowledge. We call it Science here. Do yourself a favour and subscribe to the Nature and/or Science journals. You'll see that the Quaternary paleoecological discourse may be much about climatic variation, yet various trends remain that worry entire communities of academics.

      Honestly - 2011-09-29 09:01

      @CT Scientist. Stop reading all your books, and go and do an honest days work. In theory a lot of things sound true, but in practice?

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 09:23

      @ Honestly: So Science-related research and study isn't work? But you were talking about "inventions" earlier and how they're a standard of progress? Double standards maybe? In any regard.. I'm happier dedicating my life to advancing global knowledge - rather than trying to make obscene amounts of money to buy some material culture that I don't even need. Higher education has its own perks. Probably why so many of us go through the almost decade long process.

      Honestly - 2011-09-29 10:12

      @CT Scientist. The environmental science is not work. It's a load of hogwash. Please let us know when water will be scarce in SA, and when it happens as you predict, then I will say that's it is work

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 10:32

      @ Honestly: The sit-back-and-hope-nothing-bad-happens approach. I can see that that is how we should prepare for the chance of significantly higher global temperatures, higher sea levels, higher moisture evaporation, changing ecological conditions, changing fauna and flora migratory patterns, species eradication, greater fire risks, among so many other possibilities. Do nothing. Hope it all passes without a problem. I can't say I like that approach, considering how much data is supporting the climatic models. Yes - they're not perfect. No one ever claimed they would be. But if the Eemian interglacial is anything to go by.. we're in for one heck of a ride!

  • Patrick - 2011-09-29 07:20

    Those dirty dogs of the GreenPeace movement are merely pushing Agenda 21

  • Man can do - 2011-09-29 07:25

    The people needed to implement radical strategies will be dead when food production and water shortages reaches crisis levels. They should be thinking of their children and their childrens children. The acts of greed however takes precedence over all else at present, and that is the major stumbling block. People, and that includes everybody is so focused on using and enjoying what they can today(use it now, because it might not be there tomorrow), they unrealistically forget about the tomorrows. Unless we change our selfish behaviour, we will not make any difference in the future.

  • stofsuier - 2011-09-29 07:30

    No wonder there will be a shortage of food in SA. They keep killing the people who are producing the food "FARMERS"

  • Nicolai - 2011-09-29 07:35

    Thanks CTScientist! I never knew! People are always saying "Black people never invented anything"...Now I can see they are dead wrong! :) See:

      Kered - 2011-09-29 07:48

      To CTScientist as well, It is obvious to the more intellectual person that the article in question, and response by Honestly, refers to 'African' blacks and not those who have since been educated in, and by WHITE countries abroad.

      Honestly - 2011-09-29 08:02

      @Kered. You hit the nail squarely on the head

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 08:05

      @ Kered: If Honestly uses the term "black" he does so carelessly. If he is referring to Africans, then he should use that term. There are "black" people all over the world. Not just in Africa. Anyway. You go on to comment that the "response by Honestly, refers to 'African' blacks and not those who have since been educated in, and by WHITE countries abroad." African "blacks" as well as African hunter-gatherer/forager communities have been educated in white dominated countries just like abroad. However, our country had the luxury of controlling that education through exclusionary policies such as apartheid. I think you've heard of that one, yeah? Suffice to say that abroad, "black" people started going to University much early and contributed very quickly. If you want a list of African inventors/academics, why don't you drive down to Wits and/or UCT and go visit the Science Faculty there. Since I'm already here, I can assure you that you would be VERY VERY surprised. Would you like a few links to some publications? Not that you'd understand what was in them, of course. But you'll get the point. Since you are obviously capable of discerning subtle undercurrents in conversations, as you're the "more intellectual person".

      Badballie - 2011-09-29 11:31

      pity they are all american Negros of mixed heritage, also most of these so called inventions are nothing more than advancements of technology that already existed. better luck next time.

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 11:46

      @ Badballie: You do know how modern science works, right? Every scientist is building on previous knowledge? We expand our knowledge base to create new paradigms? You get that.. yeah? All innovation is the advancement of knowledge. Unless you developed the wheel, or language, I think no one is capable of anything completely without some knowledge base. And I suppose you know who built the wheel, yeah? I assure you - not Europeans. Anyway.. genetic evidence highlights that all human beings on the planet have mixed heritage. Genius comment there, then. You have African in you, sir. And your genetic material doesn't care what you think about that. While we're at it, let me point out that you also have 2-4% Neanderthal DNA in your genetic material if you are not an African. Another resounding win there, it seems, for genetic "purity" myths!? Just to point out, Charles Drew was: "A pioneer in the field of blood preservation, he developed a method for separating plasma from the whole blood so they could be combined later. Also determined that plasma could be administered to certain patients regardless of their blood type. Helped to establish the modern blood bank." Pretty nifty innovation if I ever saw one. ;)

      greatgodpan - 2011-09-29 11:58

      how the hell is a water shortage in any way related to race?

  • greatgodpan - 2011-09-29 09:31

    stop talking about it....a short term solution is easy....govt subsidies all households with large plastic (i think they call them jojos?) water containers to collect rainwater from the roof....a simple but effective short (and indeed long term) strategy........

  • Badballie - 2011-09-29 11:22

    Gauteng sits on three water basins holding more water than there is in all our dams and rivers which can be used......of course the government let it be contaminated by acid mine water so it will cost a fortune to purify again. The cape are especially under Table mountain also has a bowl which is suspected to hold more water than the Gauteng bowls as well as all available water in the country at present as well. We will not run out of water if the majority is wise enough to start birth control measures. if they don't they deserve what happens to them. Normal citizens of the middle class are able to afford wells and water purification plants to supply themselves with water without government help, of course government will oppose this on so or other grounds as they will not give up this profit making mechanism easily.

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 11:49


  • Badballie - 2011-09-29 11:42

    @CTSCIENTIST Firstly the word racist can have positive and negative connotations. secondly as a white I have as much right to protect my race culture and heritage as any other race. and yes whites and blacks are of different races. next with all due acknowledgement to your studies, one need to accept that science is a fallible art which is continually being proven wrong and adjusted accordingly as we learn and understand more of the world around us. You make the mistake of placing the burden of climate change which is a reality on the shoulders of man which is a total distortion of the truth. Climate change would be happening even if there were no humans on the planet, the idea that we can reverse or stop climate change is also pure fallacy. Big business is making an obscene profit on things that have no effect. the human race is also reaching saturation point and the planet can no longer produce what we need fast enough. The US for the record has never implemented any industrial restrictions in respect of climate change and never will. climate change is a regular cycle in the same way that so called ice ages are a cycle there will never be changed or stopped by man.

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 11:58

      @ Badballie: "and yes whites and blacks are of different races." Care to cite any genetic or anatomical studies to back up your case here? And please try to find something that postdates the 1980's. You won't, of course. But clearly you need to become aware of the contemporary scientific communities views on how genetics works. "one need to accept that science is a fallible art" No. It is Science. It is a rigorous discipline which does not seek to prove, only to disprove. It is not 'proven' wrong. Its practitioners incorporate new data into their paradigms and/or create new paradigms when knowledge advances sufficiently. That is the very point of the discipline. It is self regulating and never stagnates. It constantly strives to find new evidence to best interpret and explain the world. New paradigms do not always completely replace old paradigms. Instead they grow out of each other. "You make the mistake of placing the burden of climate change which is a reality on the shoulders of man which is a total distortion of the truth." Please point out where I made this mistake. Because I did not say any such thing. "Climate change would be happening even if there were no humans on the planet, the idea that we can reverse or stop climate change is also pure fallacy." No one disputes climatic variability in the Holocene. What is disputed is the excessive anthropogenic input which destabilises Quaternary climatology. We can limit this anthropogenic input to curb impacts.

  • daaivark - 2011-09-29 12:13

    HELLO..... THIS IS NOT ABOUT RACE? WHat a bunch of obsessed freaks we have here!

      CTScientist - 2011-09-29 12:44

      Telling the trolls that won't stop the trolling. We cannot just sit here and let them sprout their particular brand of nonsense, though.

  • craig.blanckenberg - 2011-11-21 11:45 - agenda! Make the rich richer.

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