Water scarcity in South Africa will be high on the agenda of a three-day Water Research Council meeting under the theme “Adaptation to the New Normal”‚ which opened on Monday east of Johannesburg.
South Africa is recovering from the 2016 drought and the Western and Eastern Cape are still experiencing critical water shortages.
Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyana said the rise of extreme weather patterns because of climate change and a growing global population were realities which impacted on water resources.
“The challenges are global‚ therefore the memoranda of understanding with neighbouring Namibia and the Water Research Council must assist in resolving challenges in the regions‚” she said.
The minister said a high-level panel on water was meeting at the UN this week.
“The outcomes of this symposium must speak to a better water future and encourage international partnerships‚” Mokonyana said.
She said Gauteng enjoyed water from Lesotho because of such a partnership.
Water Research Council CEO Desighen Naidoo said the current infrastructure and regulatory environment in South Africa needed to be revisited with vigour.
Priorities he listed included: “Enabling sustainable development and ensuring universal access to basic services in the new normal through creativity‚ innovation and systems amenable to dynamic adaptation and improvement.”
The council’s biennial symposium is a platform for new knowledge and innovation to improve water and sanitation delivery.
South Africa’s average annual rainfall of 490mm is far lower than that of the global average‚ of 814mm per year‚ according to the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature).
The authoritative Atlas of Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas in South Africa reports that more than half of the country’s rivers are being strangled by pollution and water extraction.