A bet­ter way to con­serve wa­ter

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Dr Ra­belani Da­gada (PhD)

THE THREAT of wa­ter short­age in the coun­try is no longer in a near fu­ture, but a re­al­ity we have to live with and ad­dress to­day.

Re­cently the Western Cape was de­clared a dis­as­ter area with the prospect of the wa­ter taps run­ning com­pletely dry. The Western Cape gov­ern­ment is work­ing tire­lessly to try to avert “Day Zero” – the day on which the taps run com­pletely dry.

The mag­ni­tude of the Day Zero is an unimag­in­able catas­tro­phe which no one is pre­pared for.

Barely two years ago, South Africans – es­pe­cially those in big cities – had to quickly ac­cli­ma­tise to the new phrase “wa­ter re­stric­tions” as the coun­try was gripped by a se­vere drought.

The drought, which be­gan al­most two years ago, is said to be the worst in 35 years, ac­cord­ing to the SA In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs (SAIIA).

In the course of the se­vere drought more prov­inces were de­clared dis­as­ter ar­eas.

How did we move so quickly from wa­ter re­stric­tions in less than a year to Day Zero?

This re­quires the gov­ern­ment to move with speed in deal­ing with the chal­lenges of wa­ter.

Hardly a year ago Gaut­eng res­i­dents got a rude awak­en­ing when mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in­clud­ing the Joburg city coun­cil were forced to im­ple­ment wa­ter re­stric­tions in a bid to curb ex­ces­sive wa­ter us­age as the drought per­sisted.

Dam lev­els, in­clud­ing the In­te­grated Vaal River Sys­tem which sup­ply in­dus­tries and the pop­u­la­tion in Gaut­eng, were drop­ping at an alarm­ing rate, threat­en­ing the prov­ince’s econ­omy and by ex­ten­sion that of the coun­try.

Dur­ing the re­cent Bud­get speech which I tabled and which was sub­se­quently passed by the city coun­cil, I pleaded with coun­cil­lors that, given the scarcity of wa­ter in Joburg, the huge in­equal­ity in the city and the mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vice back­logs, it is in the best in­ter­est of the res­i­dents for the city to stop giv­ing free basic wa­ter to all res­i­dents.

This move would al­low the city to only give free basic wa­ter to those who need it the most, the poor peo­ple of our city. A lot of our clean wa­ter is lost through leaks, wastage and il­le­gal con­nec­tions.

Statis­tics show that the in­ter­na­tional aver­age wa­ter us­age per day is 173 litres, while South Africans on the other hand use 61.8% more wa­ter than the world aver­age.

I’m pleased the city coun­cil voted for a Bud­get which would en­sure that, de­pend­ing on the house­hold in­come, the poor­est mem­bers of our so­ci­ety will re­ceive an in­crease of be­tween 10 and 15 kilo­litres of free wa­ter, per month. This is above the na­tional rec­om­men­da­tion of six kilo­litres of free wa­ter per month and is in line with our pro-poor agenda.

Through this, the city coun­cil will be able to gen­er­ate an es­ti­mated R320 mil­lion more in rev­enue, which would be ploughed back into our com­mu­ni­ties for bet­ter ser­vices and in­fra­struc­ture.

It will help to bring wa­ter and elec­tric­ity ser­vices to com­mu­ni­ties that have never had them be­fore.

Our re­cently passed bud­get works to strike a bal­ance by en­sur­ing that, the poor re­ceive free basic wa­ter, that those who ex­ces­sively waste wa­ter con­tinue to pay at a higher rate, and safe­guard­ing wa­ter as a scarce re­source and cre­at­ing a cul­ture of wa­ter con­ser­va­tion through our tar­iff struc­ture.

How did we move so quickly from wa­ter re­stric­tions to Day Zero?

City of Joburg’s Mem­ber of the May­oral Com­mit­tee for Fi­nance

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