The Mercury

Dams still being managed as water alternativ­es sought

- Hosia Sithole

WHILE the Department of Water and Sanitation is doing its best to encourage the public to use water sparingly in the face of the calamitous drought gripping the country, there seems to be a growing perception that the government is not doing enough to harness and save floodwater­s that wash away the roads, river banks and bridges.

This perception is diametrica­lly opposed to the reality of the situation. The department is managing 211 dams across the country to ensure that as much water as possible is collected to ensure that our taps never run dry. The argument therefore that in order to have abundant water, we must do more by way of constructi­on of more dams is an unsustaina­ble one.

One of the factors that we must take into account is that South Africa remains a water scarce country. Accordingl­y, our patterns of consuming water today are key to whether we have enough for tomorrow. In this regard, the department is a custodian of the country’s water resources.

Therefore it has an important obligation in making sure that citizens have access to this life-giving resource.

Apart from making sure that the required expertise and experience are found in the water sector through encouragin­g the youth to pursue studies that are water sector related, the department is expending resources to ensure that these dams are well maintained so that there is no public outcry about lack of water. By calling on communitie­s to save as much water as possible, the department is not abdicating its responsibi­lity to harness methods of storing water to provide to the public.

wwRecently, Minister Nomvula Mokonyane officially launched the Richards Bay Desalinati­on Plant in uMhlathuze Municipali­ty, in a bid to ensure communitie­s access to clean and safe water. Richards Bay is one of the regions in the province that was severely affected by drought.

The impact of the drought saw the yield of Goedertrou­w Dam, lakes and rivers in the surroundin­g areas waning gradually and thus affecting water supply. The desalinati­on plant is therefore one of the interventi­ons to ensure water availabili­ty in the area. The plant treats about 10 million litres of water per day.

As a burgeoning economic hub of Zululand, Richards Bay has several internatio­nal companies operating in the area that are reliant on a secure supply of water for their production. In the event that this area is without water for weeks on end, the sad result would be investment flight from this area, removing much-needed capital for developmen­t.

However, the interventi­on in this area does not happen without a chorus of criticism that desalinati­on is expensive and thus unsustaina­ble. salty sea Mindful of this concern, the department cannot shrug its shoulders and stand idle. At the heart of a water shortage are the lives of the people that are at stake.

The utmost regard should be given to the necessity of providing water to communitie­s, taking into account all surroundin­g circumstan­ces. It far outstrips the price tag attached to the project.

As the department is moving towards desalinati­on interventi­ons, this should not be construed to mean that the department is dispensing with harnessing and storing of water through catchment management areas. Desalinati­on is but one of the ways in which the government seeks to change the lot of the people who have to carry on daily without a drop of water.

The department is also looking at other solutions. It is prudent for the government to not only call on communitie­s to exercise restraint in the manner they use water, but that it go flat-out to seek remedies to the affliction of water shortages. ●

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