Water conference: Doing it ourselves is the solution to SA’s impending water crisis

A full-blown water crisis in South Africa, which has been in the making for the past few years, paints an ominous picture of what the future of this water-scarce country and its inhabitants will look like. Little to no access to clean drinking water means that healthcare will rapidly deteriorate. Water-borne diseases will run rampant and the existing socio-economic inequalities in towns and cities will worsen. This could become South Africa’s reality if urgent and decisive action is not taken to prevent such a scenario from happening. Today, during its water conference, AfriForum explained exactly how it plans to ensure water security across the country.

Doing it ourselves. This is in short what the civil rights organisation’s national water strategy proposes to correct the systemic failures and deterioration of water supply at local governmental level, and at the same time offer much-needed relief to communities suffering from the consequences of the impending water crisis. The strategy focuses on practical solutions to relieve the pressure on the water system and to make communities more independent in dealing with the water crisis.

AfriForum has already launched a project to build private modular water and sewage treatment works to make two communities independent of their respective municipalities. It not only requires less manpower to operate these types of water and sewage treatment works but can also be an effective water solution for communities. AfriForum has also acted proactively by setting up emergency water points across South Africa. These emergency water points already stand at 90 and are accessible to anyone.

Together with this, AfriForum strives to fill the knowledge deficit in the management of water and sewage treatment plants by training experts who have the necessary skills to operate these plants correctly. The civil rights organisation has developed an accredited training course in collaboration with Water Group, Pionier Dienstemaatskappy and the Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA). AfriForum has already trained 15 people in this course and plans to give another 15 people the opportunity to complete the training this year. By the end of the training these individuals are capable of fully operating water and sewage treatment plants. However, the next step is to join hands with municipalities so that gaps in public water and sewage treatment works can be addressed.

Leading experts in water management and civil servants from the Department of Water and Sanitation also analysed the country’s water crisis during the conference and highlighted the lessons that Cape Town learned after its so-called “Day Zero”. Attention was also given to the legal framework for water supply and the scope for community involvement in this. From the conference, it became clear that cooperation between the public and private sectors is the only way to ensure that all South Africans have access to clean water now and in the future.

“This conference aims to make citizens aware of the crisis we are facing, and to mobilise experts to effectively stop the crisis,” says Lambert de Klerk, AfriForum’s Manager for Environmental Affairs. “We want to work with the government to offer solutions to this crisis and are prepared to throw everything into the fight to make these plans succeed.”

AfriForum’s new documentary, Running Dry – A Nation on the Brink, which was shown for the first time at the conference, illustrates the current state of affairs and emphasises the urgency to act against this crisis. The documentary is available on YouTube and AfriForumTV.

Later this year, AfriForum will launch a report detailing the way forward. Visit https://afriforum.co.za/en/water-crisis-portal / for more information on the impending water crisis.

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