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Factors Influencing Water Supply In South Africa Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 1624 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“The average rainfall in South Africa is about 450 millimetres per year (mm/annum).  Our rainfall has a water supply potential per capita of just over 1 100 cubic metres per year (m3/annum”

Johannesburg, which is in the North has wet summers and dry winters, while Cape Town experiences much of its rainfall during its winter season. South Africa has very different weather patterns, so much so that the western part of the country is quite arid, while the East Coast is much wetter.

Sources of water

South Africa’s water resources are already under huge demand. Most of our water sources are already utilised, finding new sources is becoming more and more difficult every day. South Africa is a semi-arid country and water is a very limited resource which is being used daily at a rapid rate. South Africa does not receive rainfall all year round so there is not a constant supply of water on the surface. However we rely heavily on the use of perennial rivers as well as dams and groundwater. South Africa has many storage facilities for the rainy seasons in order to store water for long periods. Large dams and lakes are present all over the country to capture this water which is later used for many different areas of our economy.

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A huge problem with South Africa’s water sources is the quality of the water. All over the country, our water is polluted and contaminated daily by industries effluents, acid, sewage and agricultural runoff. This leads to great problems when our main rivers are polluted and this then later flows into smaller tributaries where water is used for human activities. This is the start and main cause of diseases in rural areas. This will become a great concern when the water quality is no longer good enough to be used in our everyday lives. So all together South Africa’s water sources are not the most efficient, but for the moment they are sustainable but they will only continue to be a sustainable resource for as long as we continue to manage it well.

There are large rivers which will continue to be a great resource for us, for example the large Tugela River in Kwazulu-Natal. These are the rivers which we need to look after and keep clean and free from any pollution.

Availability and distribution

Things affecting the availability of water are things such as South Africa’s climate and the rapid growing population. As mentioned earlier, we don’t have the best rainfall in South Africa so this becomes a problem as well as the high evaporation rate around the country. This leads to a decrease in the availability of water as not lots of water is able to infiltrate and become groundwater. These leads to a decreased amount of surface run off as well as a drop in the level of the water table. The water table now becomes very low, which in turn will affect the vegetation around it as well as any agricultural land.

With a rapid growing population, there becomes a higher demand for water and this is putting lots of pressure on our water resources. We can’t stop people from accessing water as everybody needs water in their daily lives. So we either need to educate people about sustainable water use or find a way to be able to provide for everyone. With the growing population, it leads to over population in rural areas and this eventually leads to most of our water sources becoming heavily polluted, from sewage, waste and agricultural waste substances. Eutrophication is taking place in all of South Africa’s rivers now. Not only does it lead to over population, but also more space is now required for buildings to accommodate the expanding population and in order to get land, wetlands are being removed as well as the changing of river courses. The drainage basins and catchment areas of a river are constantly being altered due to the population growing. There is said to be a predicted 52% increase in the demand for water over the next 30 years.

Water is distributed all over the country mainly by rivers and dams and lakes, but also by specialised water systems such as irrigation systems for farmers and also by the use of canals. Some rural areas even have water bought in for them in water tanks as they just don’t have the resources available. Unfortunately water is not distributed evenly throughout South Africa, as some areas receive more rainfall then others and some areas have larger storage facilities for the water, although this would be the same situation in any country. Over-extraction is now becoming an issue of concern, especially in agricultural areas as farmers need the water for irrigation. Water is removed from South Africa’s main river systems and put into dams and lakes, reducing the discharge of the original river. This is causing our main rivers to disintegrate which could become a huge area of concern in years to come. These rivers need to be sustained.

Usage by economic sectors

South Africa’s economic sector is lead by agricultural and mining. Both of these two elements of our economy require large amounts of water. So we could say that they may be the reason for the rapid decrease in water resources, however in order for South Africa’s economy to grow we need to depend on these primary sectors. When it comes to agriculture- forestry and farming require large amounts of water contributions. Farmers rely on good climate and seasonal rainfall. However most the time they don’t receive their annual rainfall, so when there is rain, they open up canals and let their storage dams fill up with water. Farmers then use different methods of irrigation, to water their crops. But without this water, their crops would not survive. So in the farming sector of our economy, the usage of water is extremely high and very important. This large usage of water, increases the amount of pollution as farmers spray their crops with herbicides and insecticides , and the water drains from the crops after rainfall into nearby rivers and dams, taking all the chemicals with it and polluting these surrounding rivers.

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Large amounts of water are then also used in mining and the producing of electricity. Mining also often disturbs water courses as well as a change in pH levels, increases salinity, metal content and the sediment load. South Africa’s economy benefits lots from the exporting of these resources in the primary sector, so we need to be able to provide water to the farming and mining industries in order to keep them going to contribute to the growing economy. Even the second and tertiary sectors need these products in order to maintain their own businesses, such as electricity, which is used in all sectors in order to control things such as the machinery and the power for large industries. However this electricity is generated from water as well. So water is the main source behind everything. Another example is where water is used for irrigation on a sugar cane farm, where later the sugar cane is refined into sugar which is sold as a product. These two examples show us how if water was not available, none of the final products would be produced. Therefore water is used in every economic sector, but mainly in the primary sector.

Management and Solutions

South Africa does have a minister of water affairs and many different water related companies who do work on trying to sustain our water resources such as different protocols which we abide by. “The most important are the Water Services Act (Act 108 of 1997) and the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998), which fall under the authority of the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry.” However their rules and regulations are not strict enough and most people do not abide by these regulations. People need to be educated about water and the current and future situations of our water resources. If people don’t understand, then they will not contribute to helping sustain our water levels and the water quality. We need to teach people about conserving water and not polluting all our clean resources of water, especially those in rural areas. The government needs to get more involved as this is becoming a serious issue now, so they need to start implementing rules and regulations, but they need to monitor them very closely.

However at the same time, we need to make sure people’s basic needs are being met. Everyone needs water at home for drinking, sanitation, washing and then people also need water for their crops as most people in rural areas depend heavily on their own crops for food. Water organisations need to strive to supply water efficiently and need to promote conservation. If someone wants to build a dam and extract water from a main river source, they should have to ask for permission from a water organisation, so that it can be monitored correctly.

We need to find solutions of managing our waste. We need to have huge filters put in some areas to stop certain substances from entering our river systems as well as water treatment programmes. We need improved waste management facilities.

“Our challenge here is not so much to invent as it is to alter the way we think and act on how we use our water,” said Buyelwa Sonjica, minister of water and environmental affairs. “We don’t have the luxury of choice and time unfortunately – we must act now and do that decisively.”


Utilizable groundwater exploitation potentialhttp://soer.deat.gov.za/1520_t5pF9BXacE.img

Water management areas and inter-basin transfers


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