Country braces for ‘looming drought’

Country braces for ‘looming drought’

South Africa is facing a looming water shortage and experts warn we may not see it coming.

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Drought in the country’s maize belt including the North West and Free State provinces has already pushed up the price of maize this year

“We don’t know when it will happen, but we are overdue for it (drought) so we need to start planning for the worst and hope for the best,” said Dr Ronnie McKenzie, managing director of the engineering company Water Resource Planning.

“The government is aware of this looming drought,” he told Health-e News. “The funny part about a drought is that you don’t see it coming, – you only realise it when we are two years into it.

“For all we know it might have already begun,” said McKenzie speaking at the launch of a new government website aimed at tracking the country’s water resources.

The website draws from as yet unreleased 2012 study conducted by the Water Research Commission and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). The study’s full results are due to be released in April.

[quote float= left]“ The funny part about a drought is that you don’t see it coming, – you only realise it when we are two years into it.”

According to DWS Deputy Director General Deborah Mochothli, in the meantime the website should help policymakers plan as demands on water grow.

“There is a growth of population and the demand for water thus data capturing and information has to be accurate,” said Mochothli adding that huge amounts of water are also needed to power industry.

“There are serious developments in the country that need water for survival,” she added. “South Africa has some of the largest coal mines in the world, we have the largest deposits of platinum in the world and we generate over 50 percent of electricity in Africa.”

Meanwhile, McKenzie warned that there is no reliable to predict the extent to which climate change will negatively impact the country’s water resources.

The website’s launch comes just days after violence broke out in Madibeng near Brits following service delivery protests allegedly sparked by weekend water shortages. – Health-e News.

Edited versions of this story first appeared in the Cape Times and  Pretoria News newspapers.