Johannesburg – Water is the new “Eskom” problem for South Africa – only more complex, according to Professor Anthony Turton, water strategy specialist.
“Unfortunately, water does not seem to be a priority for the government, despite my efforts to warn that the national economy is fundamentally water constrained,” said Turton at the annual convention of the SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa).
He advised businesses and organisations, however, “not to panic over the horror story of a water crisis”.
“Once you know what is coming, you can jump out of the way of the ‘oncoming train’ in time. Put water on your risk register and start working on defining a solution,” he advised.
“Property developers must embrace the fact that an increase in the price of water is upon us. You can then fast track yourself and get to the next generation solution. You cannot do business without a generator and an uninterrupted water supply.”
The biggest collapse of infrastructure related to water is at municipal level, according to Turton. He went so far as to claim that the collapse of municipal sewage systems in SA should be seen as a national problem, which should be addressed at national level.
He is very concerned about the amount of partially or non- treated sewage getting into rivers and dams in SA on a daily basis due to challenges with infrastructure and demand at municipal treatment level.
“Statistically it means the state at municipal level is the biggest polluter of water in the country and this creates a fiduciary risk,” said Turton.
“We don’t even have the skills in SA anymore to tell us what is coming down the line in terms of the sewage and water crisis. Will the Cuban engineers we imported be able to help? Or Iran to whom we are apparently reaching out regarding desalination?” asked Turton.
“We just have to overcome this legacy thing in SA and employ qualified people and hold them accountable.”
In his view, SA does not have to have a water crisis, because water is “infinitely recyclable” and it should, therefore, be treated “as a flux and not a stock.
"A lot of architects and developers are now starting to think out of the box. We all need to start thinking logically and find solutions,” cautioned Turton.
“Privatisation of the challenges of energy and water along the development value chain of energy is almost happening by stealth at the moment as the private sector tries to mitigate risk.”