Drought is a very strange issue, one that only gets a reaction when we become personally impacted. Often, until we are forced to face the real impacts of drought, it is generally something that we tend to believe affects only other people.
And this is perhaps more true in South Africa today as we recognise the worst drought in the past two decades, but most of us think it is something that happened overnight – preferring to believe that we have been unfairly affected by el nino and other climatic conditions. This couldn’t be further from the truth - our drought has been coming for a long time and in spite of the warnings we have been receiving and the unmistakable signs that were there for all to see, we hardly changed anything about the way we value or respect water.
Kimberley is the latest metro to literally run ‘’out of water – and perhaps because of its historic importance and high profile, it serves to focus attention on what is actually happening óut there’. But what about the little town of Springfontein in the Free State, where residents have been forced to rely on a mere twenty litres a household a day, supplied by the SANDF in tankers from nearby areas because of bad planning, poor water management and total indifference? Rural areas suffer perhaps more than we believe, because much of what is happening stays below the radar and is hardly talked about. But the human suffering is very real – and our long-term prospects of realising our democratic ideals begin evaporating as quickly.
In spite of the fact that this is a water-scarce region, we abuse and misuse water with abandon. While we celebrate the passing of load-shedding, we underestimate the impact that greater capacity has on our dwindling water reserves. Eskom – one of the largest industrial users of water, needs more and more water as it generates the power that we need, but the link between energy and water is missed by all but the very few. Agriculture accounts for 60% of all water consumption in South Africa, and the obvious dangers that come with shortages and drought are beginning to be seen. We are facing unprecedented food price increases and very real shortages because crops are failing and beasts are dying in the fields through lack of water. And this while the mining industry continues to contaminate millions of litres of water every minute through blind greed and ignorance and local authorities turn a blind eye to blatant industrial pollution at levels way above our ability to understand. And even in our leisure time, water is not very high on our priorities if we consider the impact that golf courses and residential golf estates have on our reserves. With over 800 facilities countrywide at the last count – each using as much as one million litres a day to keep their fairways playable, is it not time that we prioritised water and the way we use it?
Without water, South Africa cannot be developed, and the shortages that are being caused through poor planning; corruption, maladministration and greed will lead to social unrest and – dare I say it, upheaval on a scale not seen before. Think before you use water – and make very real, sustainable and measureable changes to the ways that you consume this precious resource, because without it – well, the alternatives are not worth thinking about.