Human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu has called on South Africans to use water sparingly to avoid the country sliding into a drought crisis.

Briefing the media in Johannesburg on Monday, with Rand Water CEO Sipho Mosai, Sisulu said water scarcity would have a negative impact on the country’s social and economic development.

“As a government we take this very seriously. Before we get to a drought situation, can we please use our water sparingly,” she said, adding that a masterplan to address the water challenge would be unveiled soon.

According to data from Rand Water that was last updated on Thursday, Gauteng’s Vaal Dam level was currently at 48.8%, Grootdraai Dam (Mpumalanga) 54.4%, Sterkfontein Dam (Free State) 91.5% and Bloemhof Dam (border between North West and Free State) 80.2%.

In the past two years the Western Cape was forced to implement stringent water restrictions as it battled its worst drought, which forced it to implement a “day zero” deadline for when taps would run dry.

Rand Water CEO Sipho Mosai said the country used 5,000 megalitres of water per day, which was above the international average of 4,368 megalitres.

“Water consumption has become unsustainable,” Mosai said.

Rand Water supplies Gauteng and parts of Free State, Mpumalanga and North West, including Rustenburg.

He said they had been calling on the public to use water sparingly but to no avail, forcing Rand Water to impose water restrictions such as switching off the sprinkler systems, reducing the amount of time to shower to two minutes and switching off the tap when shaving or brushing teeth.

Sisulu said the country was experiencing high temperatures and increased demand for water, coupled with low rainfalls.

“Climate change is a reality and it’s affecting SA in this way. I’m informed by my advisers [that the] earliest we can experience rain is December, so we are in for a long dry season.”

She said the matter was enjoying her highest attention. That Rand Water had begun to impose water restrictions “as a cautionary measure” was a calculated move.

“There is no need to panic but [let’s be] prudent in the way we use water.”

Eastern Cape and Limpopo were other provinces hit by water scarcity.

“We appeal to all our people: please ensure you use water wisely to sustain supply that we have,” the minister said. 

The IFP’s spokesperson on human settlements, water and sanitation, Xolani Ngwezi, said they welcomed Sisulu’s announcement “insofar as requesting South Africans to save water and to use it sparingly”.

“But we firmly believe that our water woes cannot only be blamed on weather and changes within our climate, but corruption, a lack of water management and a crisis in infrastructure and skills must be addressed,” said Ngwezi.

“We can ill afford the effects of a water crisis as it would impact life, food security and see the collapse of job-creating sectors in our country.”

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