Over a third of SA water supply lost through poor infrastructure


Johannesburg - Over a third of SA's water supply is being lost due to aged and leaking infrastructure before it can be used. 

That's according to CSIR principal researcher and research group leader for resource-specific scientific measures Marius Claassen.

Claassen, speaking during a panel discussion on Thursday ahead of World Water Day, said countrywide an average of 37% of SA's water supply was lost before it reached users due to leaks. 

An expert on water policy and its governance, he said water conservation was not only a government responsibility.

“For metropolitan areas infrastructure is fit for supply and sanitation, but in rural areas infrastructure is at imminent risk of failure as it has not been upgraded for years,” Claassen said. 

According to the South African Institution of Civil Engineering's 2017 Infrastructure Report Card for South Africa, water supply in major urban areas gets a C+ grading, while supply of all other areas is D-. C is labelled as “Satisfactory for Now” while the D grading as “At Risk of Failure.”

“When we face water outages in the country, it isn’t normally linked to less water in dams but rather as a failure in pumps or pipes,” Claassen said. 

The panel discussion was hosted by P&G and centred on South Africa’s current water crisis, including shortages in Cape Town.

Day Zero, the day when taps in Cape Town will be switched off and Capetonians would have to queue for water, may now not occur in 2018, if winter rains are adequate and water saving measures continue.


Gideon Groenewald, a hydrologist, geologist and paleontologist, said that water shortages in some rural areas are undermining the lives of children.

Groenewald is involved with the NGO Gift of the Givers, which has been working with rural communities to source water by drilling boreholes. 

He said the organisation has been educating children in communities about the management of borehole water.

“We need to educate people in rural communities about water management because in some areas, children are missing out on school because they need to collect water for their families. Water shortages in some areas are undermining children’s lives,” Groenewald said.

On Monday, Moody's Investors Service reported that Cape Town would need between R8bn and R12bn over the next five years for water and sanitation infrastructure to deal with its water crisis adequately and avoid future water supply crises.

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