Having always enjoyed the luxury of water ‘on tap’ for drinking, showering, bathing, cooking, cleaning, watering the garden, washing the dogs and washing the car, we rarely spare a thought about our precious, but severely limited water resources. Have you ever stopped to think about what would happen if water is no longer readily available? There will be no ‘free’ clean water to drink; plants and crops will perish, affecting food availability; and our electricity supply would be severely constrained, since power stations are among the main consumers of water.
Understanding the Water Shortage
Essential for life on earth, water is one of our most valuable and stressed resources, and globally, it is an increasingly scarce commodity. Here at home, South Africa is listed as a ‘water dry’ country. The uneven distribution of rainfall in our country, together with the fact that our evaporation rate is higher than our rainfall, makes water conservation a matter of extreme urgency.
In addition, pollution is a major factor affecting our water supply as well as the overall quality of clean drinking water. This pollution arises from mines, the deterioration of natural land as more homes and roads are constructed, waste that is deposited in our rivers, and soil erosion that leads to sediments being deposited into rivers and dams. Deforestation, damming of rivers and the destruction of wetlands also have a massive impact on the environment, destroying the natural habitats of birds and insects and depleting the nutrients found in water, causing water resources to become saline.
In Gauteng, proximity also plays a significant role in the availability of water. All major cities were founded on, or adjacent to, major water sources such as rivers, dams or the ocean. Johannesburg, however, was founded due to the existence of the gold reef, 1753 metres above sea level and nowhere near a water source. Johannesburg originally sourced its water from the Vaal and Tugela rivers which began distributing water to the Witwatersrand in 1903 and 1974 respectively. The demand increased so much that in 1998, the Lesotho Highlands project was implemented in an attempt to meet the water demand from the city’s households, agriculture and industry.
Recent reports have indicated that a water crisis is imminent in the Gauteng province, with some water experts suggesting that Gauteng households will be running out of water by 2013.
What can we do to help prevent a water shortage?
Currently, South Africans pay between R3 and R15 for a thousand litres of water, enjoying one of the cheapest tariffs in the world. But this might not be the case for long. If we do not monitor and manage our water consumption, we will most likely face the same scenario with our water supply as we have with our electricity supply – experiencing massive shortages and price hikes to bring the supply and demand equation into balance. While the electricity crisis is top of mind at the moment, a water crisis will be far more hazardous and detrimental to people and the environment. Any price hikes for our water supply will cause further havoc for household budgets already stretched by rising fuel, food and electricity prices.
“In addition to becoming more aware of our precious water resources and understanding where our water comes from, we need to learn how to use water respectfully” explains Mark Corry, Managing Director of Efergy Technologies.
Here are a few tips:
• Turn the tap off while washing your face, brushing your teeth or shaving.
• A five-minute shower a day will use a third of the water used bathing in a bath tub, saving up to 400 litres a week.
• Use low-flow showerheads, dual-flush toilet mechanisms and water-efficient washing machines.
• Fill your kettle and pots with just enough water for your needs. This will reduce your electricity bill too, since you are not using energy to heat water you won’t use.
• Every time you flush the toilet, 12 litres of water is used. Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
• A garden hose uses as much as 30 litres of water per minute. Use a bucket rather than a hose to wash your car. If you have to use a hose, use a sprayer that can be turned off.
• Do not pour paint and chemicals down the drain.
• Water your garden early in the morning or in the evening, when temperatures are cooler. Between 10:00 and 15:00, up to 90% of the water will be lost to evaporation.
The future of our water resources is bleak indeed, unless households, water institutions and government associations all make a concerted effort to reduce water consumption and to save our water resources. The responsibility rests on each of us to become water wise and to be part of the solution.
For more information on the environmentally friendly and efficient energy saving products from Efergy Technologies, visit www.efergy.co.za or contact Mark Corry on 011 367 0626.