I know Eskom’s future is important for SA, but our obsession with its incompetence is blinding us to an even more critical crisis. Civilisation flourished without electricity until about 140 years ago, but it has always depended on water.

You can trace water’s influence back to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt and their efforts to control the Nile’s annual flood. Though India has just received good monsoon rains, 21 of its major cities were recently trucking in water. Groundwater reserves have been heavily exploited. One of the underlying causes of the Kashmiri conflict between India and Pakistan is water. Over 1-billion people rely on the meltwaters of the Himalayan plateau, which will be negatively affected by climate change.

Closer to home, while Cape Town had a lucky escape from Day Zero, the Eastern Cape is still ravaged by drought and  there will be water restrictions on the highveld should sufficient summer rains not materialise. To our north, the Kariba Dam is less than 15% full.

With climate change and ever-growing cities, the continued availability of clean drinking water is critical. At the moment SA is just playing with water security. We are still letting raw sewage and other substances pollute our rivers. We are not doing enough to trap and retain water for multiple reuse. A significant percentage of Cape Town’s  raw sewage is still being pumped out to sea. While the marine pollution is appalling, the water is also being lost. If Windhoek has been recycling water for the past 20 years, why is it impossible for SA cities to do the same?          

Most of us taken water for granted. As long as fresh, clean water came out of our taps, we didn’t  think to ask how it got there. That time is over.

James Cunningham
Camps Bay

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