South Africans can avoid ‘water shedding’ if they cut usage now - minister

South Africa can avoid rolling cuts in water supply if citizens stick to restrictions in usage, Water Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said.

“If we use water sparingly, we won’t get to point of water shedding,” Sisulu told reporters in Johannesburg Monday, making reference to load-shedding, a local term for scheduled power blackouts. “If we stick to restrictions that are there, we will not get there.”

Rand Water, which is the country’s biggest water utility and supplies Johannesburg, said October 23 it will raise usage restrictions due to high demand. So-called stage 2 involves slowing the output from reservoirs, it said.

South Africa is a water-scarce country and recorded the lowest annual rainfall in more than a century in 2015. It battered agricultural output and saw gross domestic product shrink. Spring rains are late and are only expected in December, Sisulu said, adding that dry seasons are getting longer, more intense and more frequent, with rain more difficult to predict.

Average consumption in Rand Water’s region has surged to 320 liters daily, surpassing the global average of 173 liters, utility Chief Executive Officer Sipho Mosai said.

Sisulu will announce a master plan for water in November, she said. Upgrading infrastructure is a high priority, and the country will look at municipally run systems that will recycle as much as 70% of water used, said Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of the Water Research Commission.

“The possibility of a water deficit is real by 2030 if we continue using it as we use it now,” Sisulu said.

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