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Water worthy of reflection

I cannot reconcile a booming population with an arid country. All I can see down the line is trouble — and one element of the trouble is that so few people are exercised about it. So long as they can turn a tap and water gushes out, they’re happy. But wait until turning taps becomes an exercise in futility, then listen to the moans and angst. They will only have themselves to blame. A radio ad claims the next world war will be fought over water.

All this leads to the issue of who owns the water anyway. In this country, water has been nationalised. It belongs to the state, meaning all of us. But my attention has been drawn to the National Water Act and the clauses that deal with compensation due to extreme economic prejudice. According to an observer, no compensation is payable if the curtailment is to provide for a reserve, or rectify an over-allocation of water use from the resource, or rectify unfair or disproportionate use.

In the Crocodile East (Nelspruit) catchment, the water rights per hectare used to be six times more valuable than the land rights and those rights were bundled together. Now, however, the entitlements are separated. Banks have traditionally used land as collateral when lending irrigators money — but the value is in the water rights, which can be curtailed without compensation.

What does this mean for farmers and banks? If this interpretation is correct, it could be little short of disaster for some.

But a recent North Gauteng High Court ruling allows farmers to transfer water rights. This has obviously been welcomed — but is it correct? There is clearly a disconnect.

The constitution has a lot to say about deprivation of a right to property, which isn’t allowed in the absence of “just and equitable compensation”. But the crux of the matter is that a law of general application (like the water law) may limit rights of ownership in a reasonable and justifiable manner — that’s in section 36 of the constitution. So, on that basis it certainly looks as though the ring has been prepared for a knock-down fight.

Let’s say you’ve bought an irrigation farm with considerable potential — 1,000ha of maize plus another 1,000ha of lucerne. You trot off to the bank. Where is your water licence? You are waiting for it. Come back when you’ve got it. Heaven knows when that might be. I’ve just been told that it took a farmer in the George area five years to secure the appropriate permissions to build an earthen wall dam on his own property. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare.

Agri SA deputy president Theo de Jager told the South African Water and Food Forum in April that it is noticeable that no African National Congress government has yet had to deal with a “real” drought — one that covers large areas of the country and lasts for some years. It is an observation that deserves thinking about because, when it comes, it will straighten a few backs in the ruling party when they suddenly realise the issue of food security, to which scant attention has been paid over the last couple of decades, is suddenly at the forefront of political concern.

This country used to be food self-sufficient, but that ended some years ago. We are now a net food importer. This is, or should be, a cause for sober reflection. This is a water-scarce country and as the population expands so the demand for access to water will grow commensurately.

Source: BDlive

The issue of water scarcity is a growing concern with South Africa’s growing population and as a country we do take a running tap for granted.

In the near future water conservation will become a prominent issue that we will be faced with daily. Water security is not only a concern for farmers but also for the general public.

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