What is it about South Africans that we just don't get the fact that this is a dry - and in some cases arid country? It takes near drought conditions for us to wake-up to the fact that we need to conserve water and to treat the limited stocks that we have with greater care.
For the past two weeks, the country has been in the grip of some of the highest temperatures of the last few years, and water stocks and reserves are evaporating at unseasoningly-high rates. Yet, most South African's carry-on as though its business as usual and continue to take this precious resource for granted. Take for example the number of golf courses around the greater Johannesbnurg area where irrigation continues unabated at over one million litres a day per course. Or the growing number of unattended water leaks that result in millions of litres of water running down our suburban streets. Let's not even consider the growing number of car-wash facilities that remain open during these tough times.
We need to understand the fact that we are running out of water - or to be more precise, we are overburdening our existing supplies, and unless every business, individual or community does something now, we face a very dry, hot and uncomfortable summer. Just yesterday, the City of Tshwane (Pretoria) announced that it would be reviewing their plans to install a water slide down one of the main streets of Centurion in February due to the water shortage. While we welcome this brief moment of sanity, the question needs to be asked why they even considered it in the first place? What is it that makes anyone believe a slip-slide waterslide on a public street is a good idea in a water-challenged country? It is this kind of senseless planning that gets us into trouble.
We recognise that the Minsiter for Water Affairs is in-over-her-head when it comes to water management and that the poor planning and infrastructural development of the past twenty one years has led us to a situation in which not only is less water becoming available, but the quality of this life-giving resource is rapidly deteriorating on her watch. Industry too has a responsibility, and we need to see greater effort being made by every hotel, lodge and B&B to reduce their consumption through better management and more informed decision-making processes.
But maybe the worst thing about us and our consumption patterns is that whatever we do now to save water and conserve our limited reserves, we will simply fall-back to our old, wasteful and inconsiderate ways after the first good rains. we are creatures of habit, and it takes a real crisis to change attitudes and practices. Let's hope the crisis is temporary and that we can learn a little quicker this time.
Being able to pay for what you use should not be the criteria for justifying our consumption. We must begin to reduce what we use - irrespective of our ability to pay for what we use, because all the money in the world will not make-up for the loss we will suffer - both financially and growth-wise, when we run out of water.