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Water crusade is vitally important

I’M BEGINNING to have a liking for David Gleason’s Torque column, not for its sarcasm on the competence of the government to manage water resources, but for its important clarion call to the citizens of SA about our water situation and the need to use water wisely.

Mr Gleason is correct that “so long as they can turn a tap and water gushes out, they are happy. But wait until turning taps becomes an exercise in futility, then listen to the moans and angst”.

Instead of throwing our hands in the air as he suggests in saying “they will have only themselves to blame”, this presents us with an opportunity to remind South Africans that water scarcity — both in qualitative and quantitative terms — originates as much from inefficient use and poor management as from real physical limits.

Yes, we are the 30th-driest country in the world and we have less water per person than Namibia and Botswana, which are much drier than we are. But we must also take full responsibility and do something positive for other human induced ills such as pollution, water losses, illegal abstractions and general neglect and inefficiency in using water.

There is another important dimension in the water scarcity equation, which is often overlooked by most people — that there are different experiences of water scarcity for different groups in SA.

Despite the achievement of more than 94% access to potable water since 1994, many in our rural communities do not have this access or reliable supply both for drinking and productive purposes. They are also the most vulnerable when it comes to floods and droughts.

When such calls for water consciousness and conservation are made, therefore, we should always bear in mind that someone, somewhere in the hinterlands of our country is struggling to have the one drop, that we in the privileged communities could not care less about.

Mr Gleason’s enthusiasm about water also comes at an opportune time when the minister responsible has just released a second national water resource strategy for public comment. This strategy seeks to address exactly the issues that Mr Gleason is concerned about, such as effective water resources management, focusing on the role of the state and what members of the public and other sectors can do to guarantee water for future growth.

We already know the crucial role that water plays in social and economic sectors and that without a reliable supply, all the growth plans and strategies for agriculture, energy, mining, tourism and manufacturing sectors will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

So despite his colleagues’ apprehension about water writing, I would suggest that he continues his water crusade. In doing so, he will be making a contribution not only to Business Day readers but the entire South African population that is affected by water scarcity.

Source: BD Live

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