The Star Late Edition
Make water a priority
WHILE many countries are investing large sums of money into their economies, water is not their focal point.
Unlike others, Israel has invested a lot of its money into producing and supplying water for its people. Israel is ensuring that water will be available for generations to come.
When Israel was only four years old, in 1952, its leadership realised that water was going to become a scarce resource, as they were in the desert.
Israel has since established itself as a laboratory to resolve the water crisis in the world. It has earned a position as a global water superpower, through its innovative technologies.
According to the UN, 1.1 billion people across the world lack access to clean water, and about 2.4 billion people die from water-borne illnesses – while 2 million, mostly children, die from diarrhoea-related diseases.
“By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. And ecosystems around the world will suffer even more,” The Water Project report reads.
The figures should serve as a wake-up call, especially for South Africa, which has not done enough to build and enlarge its water infrastructure since 1994, when the ANC took over from the apartheid regime. It inherited an infrastructure that was designed exclusively for the few white people. The system cannot carry the heavy load.
The government should surrender the water responsibility to talented technocrats and reduce politicisation in running water affairs.
The minister should appoint non-political actors, to run water affairs – without interference.
The cause of our water shortage is not a lack of technical skills or financial difficulties. The problem is its inability to mobilise private investment.
According to the Institute of Race Relations 2020 report, titled “Thirsty Land ’Depoliticisation’ is essential”, an important reform would be to remove control of water from local authorities and transfer it to an independent regulatory body. As long as municipalities remain in control, there is a risk that they will use water revenues for purposes other than recovery of water costs, and not for financing the maintenance and upgrading of infrastructure, read the report
What Israel is doing right, and South Africa is not doing, is ensuring that a large proportion of wastewater is being recycled. A lot of water is wasted on leakages, which are a result of ageing infrastructure and, to some extent, corruption.
People in rural areas are not paying for water because there is poor service in terms of water supply. The infrastructure is ageing, with no prospects of being maintained. While the population is growing, the government is doing nothing to ensure that water would not be a problem in the future.
There are Israeli organisations doing humanitarian work in South Africa, to help poor communities, by providing solutions to their water problems. Innovation Africa is an organisation from Israel, intended to help poor villages across Africa, and South Africa’s villages have benefited from this. Hlomani, Maratheng, Khakhu, and Makgatle, are among the villages that have received water solutions from Innovation Africa.
The South African government should stop prioritising its failing stateowned entities and start investing its resources in securing water for generations to come.