According to the Oxford dictionary, a crisis is a time of great danger, difficulty or doubt when problems must be solved or important decisions must be made.

The Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, says there is no water crisis in South Africa, but then has the gumption to call on people to use water sparingly.

He went on further to tell the nation that there is a far greater demand for water than the government can supply.

Is that not a crisis?

“On average, we are not in any water crisis, but I know that there are areas in the country that are either getting less than the required supply, and in some cases, no water at all. But we need to avoid the exaggeration to say the whole country is going through a crisis,” Mchunu jabbered on.

When is a crisis a crisis?

Is it not a crisis that the emergent certainty for loads of residents in small towns, rural areas and some metros, Day Zero is pending, while for some it has already arrived?

Is it not a crisis that raw sewage continues flowing into waterways from failing municipal wastewater treatment plants? And by the way this dire scenario is widespread.

The above prompted the South African Human Rights Commission to suggest that a national disaster under the Disaster Management Act should be declared.

In report entitled A Delicate Balance; Water scarcity in South Africa, which was published in March 2018 by the Water Research Commission, Institute for Security Studies and the Frederick S. Pardee Centre for International Futures, it is clearly pointed out that there was more to our water crisis than droughts that the country experienced between 2014 and 2016.

“The drought did not cause water scarcity. What the drought did was highlight existing vulnerabilities in South Africa’s water system. South Africa is a water-scarce country,” stated the report.

Mchunu, in his wisdom, wants to deny that South Africa is a naturally water-scarce country and the 30th-driest in the world.

When you read another report 2030 Water Resources Group, it predicts that South Africa’s demand for demand will exceed supply by 2030 – that is about nine years away.

“Based on the rising population, economic growth projections and the current efficiency levels, demand for water in South Africa is expected to rise by 17,7 billion m³ in 2030 while water supply is projected to amount to 15 billion m³, representing a 17% gap between water supply and demand (or a 2,7bn to 3,8bn m³ water deficit). This gap is critical and if sustainable socio-economic growth is to be envisioned, such a gap has to be dealt with decisively over this period,” reads the report.

The water crisis in Hammanskraal is a typical example. At a commission of enquiry in April 2021, Victor Wegerle, Head of Operations at Singawaza Aid, said: “Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant was built for approximately 80 million litres a day when the population was still small. There has since been a population explosion which has resulted in the plant, which has not been expanded to meet the increased demand, having to accommodate approximately 200 million litres a day.”

Hammanskraal has been dealing with a water crisis since 2005 and in 2019 the South African Human Rights Commission adjudged the water in Hammanskraal to be “unfit for human consumption”. In 2021 the residents of this kasi still consume unsafe water.

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