South Africans need to conserve water to avoid the country running dry by 2050, Water Affairs Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi said on Tuesday.
"Research says that by 2050 we won't have any water left, if we don't change our ways.
"We have programmes in place for water conservation and water harvesting so we can avoid the catastrophe of not having water by 2050," she said at the fourth Youth Water Summit in Boksburg.
"The little things we do as individuals in our homes count. We need to be innovative in order to conserve water."
She said the summit was about building cohesive and sustainable communities.
"The ultimate goals of these strategic imperatives are to speed up economic growth, to create decent work and sustainable livelihoods."
Mabudafhasi said the department encouraged children to explore careers in water and environmental affairs.
"The department is also supporting our youth by giving them bursaries, because we want them to see water as a career. We need scientists, engineers and researchers. In the olden days we never saw water as a career, but the scope is widening now."
She said youth education played an important role in conserving water in the country and on the African continent.
"Water is our life, not only for use domestically but also economically. All industries need water but the challenge is climate change," Mabudafhasi said.
"If you educate a child you educate a nation. Children have ideas of their own. We might get interesting ideas from our youth at this summit. We need to listen to them."
In South Africa, the old water infrastructure and population growth are among the problems facing water conservation, she said.
"The infrastructure is unable to cope with the population growth. So we are dealing with these challenges, and that's why we have dedicated funds to deal with the infrastructure.
"We need to reach people in rural areas. We have programmes to deal with water conservation and we are teaching people to conserve water across the country."
Mabudafhasi said more people should recycle water and protect natural water resources. The summit ends on Friday when the winners in various categories of innovative youth water initiatives will be announced.