Photo: Peter Monyelo.
One of the most important global challenges is access to sufficient and good quality water. The world is faced with the crisis of water and the bad news is that the situation is getting worse. Water is the source of life and access to saving water is regarded as a basic human right and a symbol of dignity. It is also a powerful symbol throughout the world, carrying with it ideas of baptism and new life, cleansing and healing, and the promise of growth and prosperity. Therefore, the increasing scarcity of water is posing devastating threats to development processes such conflicts and catastrophes.
Before going into an in-depth discussion of water security it is important to define what water security is. Water security can be defined as the capacity to provide and protect sustainable access to clean water. Water security constitute of four pillars. The first dimension is that the high demand of good quality of water goes hand in hand with the appropriate use of water. Secondly access to good quality of water include adequate facilities and resources required for obtaining enough quantities. Thirdly, water supply involves sufficient quantities. Lastly water availability has to do with the identification and development of the sources of water.
In a region of growing demands on a limited resource, South Africa is classified as a water-scarce country, being the 29th driest country in the world. South Africa’s water security is depended on a number of factors such as rainfall which varies from season to season. One of the biggest challenges in South Africa is that the available water which is also limited, is distributed unfairly across the country. This is common in the rural areas of south Africa. In 2015 the country received 403 mm of rainfall which is the lowest annual total on record. This caused the South African average dam levels to drop from 93% in March 2014 to 48% in November 2016. Early 2017, the quantity of water declined but are now considered to be moderately low standing at about 59%.
The crisis of water in South Africa spread out to the parts of Western Cape Province in 2017. In February 2017, the Western Cape dams were at 36% of their total capacity, down by nearly 7% from 2016. It was assumed that if the water level falls below 20% it can no longer be pumped out in this area. During this crisis the city implemented increasingly strict restrictions to secure the available water. The projection is that in 2030 this country will face a serious water crisis and interventions and solutions are required to ensure that sufficient water is secured.
With the above crisis of water mentioned, one can argue that an intervention is urgently required. However, it is important to address this crisis by starting with what causes of the problem. There are a number of factors contributing to water crisis and the first one is water pollution. In most cases water is polluted by the deposited wastes from industries such as mines, making the water unhealthy and unsafe for human consumption and other living organisms. The second challenge, is the over usage of water, which normally occurs when people make use of larger quantities of water for different purposes. This is because the agricultural sector uses about 75% of the world’s clean water. Drought is also a major contributing factor to water crisis, and this normally happens when there is no rain fall for longer periods. Conflict is also contributing to water crisis, especially when people fight over the control of water sources like rivers resulting with some people not having access to water. In some cases, the distances to the sources of water might discourage other people to fetch water especially if they must travel longer distances and that is most likely to result in water shortage.
To be able to tackle these water crisis, the roots to all the solutions lies in “Education”. People should be educated more on how they can prevent the problem from becoming worse in the near future. Civil society must also be educated about water pollution, touching on important aspects of preventing water pollution. Apart from just educating people on how to use water, research and innovation can be used as a tool of implementing projects to tackle the water crisis.
Through the application of research and innovation, BRICS took the initiative of establishing a platform of joint research and innovation, to ensure a thorough and coordinated approach, among research communities. The water research communities are formally organised in the established BRICS Network University and several South African Universities for instance the North-West University are actively participating in research projects. There are three universities in south Africa including the North west university that participate in the research and the other two are Durban University of Technology and Central University of Technology. Brazil has two universities that participate in the research and they are the University of Campinas and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. India also has two university and they are the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur and National Institute of Technology Durgapur. China has five universities and they are Jilin University, Hohai University, Southwest University, Sichuan University and the North China University of Water Resources and Electric Power. In Russia there are ten universities that participate in water resources and pollution treatment research. Those universities are: St-Petersburg State University, Ural Federal University, Tomsk State University, Moscow Institute on Physics and Technology, Moscow State University, Moscow Institute on Physics and Technology, National University of Science and Technology, Tomsk Polytechnic University, Higher School of Economics and the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia.
Furthermore, maybe it is time to introduce stricter law enforcement with the establishment of a Water Police Enforcement Agency. The Water Police Enforcement Agency can also be employed in the agricultural sector ensuring that farming and irrigation practices are improved to reduce water usage. In addition, strong emphasis should be reinforced with regard to water recycling. Recycling goes beyond saving enough quantities of water, but it can also save people some money as well. People should avoid keeping taps of water running when not needed. People should also obey the water restrictions enforced and sustainable home living needs to be practiced. There is a significant need to repair and improve existing sewerage systems.
Water is the source of life. People and other living organisms depend on water; the industrial sector and the agricultural sector also depend on water. If water crisis continues to rise with no interventions occurring, then water conflicts will definitely rise with neighboring countries and communities fighting over sources of water. This water conflicts will threaten the lives of individuals, food security, energy and at large economic development of developing and developed countries. This is because, water security is regarded as the foundation of energy and food security. Water quality ensures and reinforces good health, nutrition and economic growth and without it the world is faced with endless conflicts over these scarce resources.