National Water Month

Ntombifuthi NalaBy Dr Ntombifuthi Nala

Water is a precious resource and no one can survive without it. It is critical for our health, growing food and economic development. It is therefore crucial that we continue to protect and manage this precious resource so that we can have enough for all of us and generations to come.

It is against this background that in 1993, the United Nations designated 22 March as the World Water Day to highlight the importance of water and raise awareness of people who continue to live without access to clean and safe water. This day is also used to encourage people around the world to deal decisively with water challenges facing the globe.

This year the day is marked under the theme: “Leveraging Water for Peace”. In South Africa, we not only observe World Water Day but dedicate the entire month of March to National Water Month. National Water Month aims to remind South Africans that we are living in a water-scarce country and that households and businesses should use water wisely and sparingly. 

South Africa is a water scarce country with rainfall that is 40 percent lower than the world average. However, our consumption is unacceptably high at 237 litres per person per day compared to the world average of 173 percent litres per day.

We need to inculcate the culture of water conservation to avoid running out of water and save it for future generations. We all have a role to play in saving water and ensuring that our supply does not run dry.

Simple things like installing water saving shower heads, converting to a dual-flush toilet and fixing leaking taps can save thousands of litres of water.  One easy way to reduce water in the home is to displace some of the water in the toilet cistern with a brick. This allows you to get the same flush pressure, but less water is used per flush. Toilets can use up to 9 litres of water in every flush. 

As government we continue to improve and invest heavily in our water infrastructure to address the issue of water scarcity before 2025. This is in line with our Constitution of ensuring that everyone has access to water as enshrined in the Constitution. Our efforts have been dedicated to improving water resource management as well as access to water supply and sanitation services.

In 2023, President Ramaphosa together with His Majesty King Letsie III, and Lesotho’s Prime Minister, Samuel Ntsokoane launched Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

It comprises a 38-kilometre, concrete-lined gravity tunnel connecting the Polihali reservoir to the Katse reservoir and 165-metre high concrete faced rockfill dam. Once the project is completed, it is expected to provide more than 400 million cubic meters of water every year to the Vaal Dam. This project is the biggest water infrastructure investment outside our borders and will require R40 billion to be completed.

We should also guard against vandalism and damage of infrastructure in the country. Communities must report those who damage infrastructure and connect water illegally to the police so that we can root out criminal elements. Illegal water connections are against the law and those who make themselves guilty of such an offence will face the full might of the law.

Water is a precious commodity that is provided to us by Mother Nature, without which no living being can survive. We must make a conscious decision to use water sparingly in our daily lives and ensure that we grow our economy and improve the lives of people.

Dr Ntombifuthi Nala is Director: Research at Government Communication and Information System