Dams still being managed as water alternatives sought
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. ●