February 15, 2018 | Resource degradation

Over the last couple of years, South Africa’s water reservoirs have dwindled significantly resulting in an unprecedented water crisis. Water is a prized resource that is why it is regarded as one of the essential human rights enforceable by several legal systems and human rights statutes. According to the South African constitution, ‘every person has the right to accessing sufficient water’. This basically means that the citizens are guaranteed a certain amount of water. The sufficiency of water guaranteed has however been a bone of contention especially in the face of imminent rationing. In the recent past, South Africa has been subject to persistent water shortages necessitating the questioning of the stipulation of rights to access to water vis-à-vis the supply of water. By April this year, the taps will run completely dry. 

What caused this crisis?

In the last couple of years, Cape Town and other South African localities have been recording reduced precipitation through rainfall. Climatic projections indicate an aggravation of the already dry conditions. This obstinate drought has been attributed to changes in the weather patterns related to the El-Nino. The persistent drought has resulted in a reduction of the country’s water supply. Water reservoirs such as the Vaal dam and Theewaterskloof amongst others have reduced their capacity by over fifty percent as compared to previous years.  Authorities report that this capacity is set to reduce further if consumption is not reduced. The supply capacity is further diminished given that the last tenth percentile in storage reservoirs is difficult to utilize. The South African water crisis has also been exacerbated by the rapid growth of population.

The dawn of water rationing

The capacity of reservoirs in South Africa has dwindled drastically and if unchecked this could ultimately result in a collapse of the country’s water provision system. To mitigate this crisis South Africa has resorted to the implementation of disaster plans as a response mechanism. Municipal counties began by advocacy on effective usage of water. South African citizens were thus urged to reduce their daily consumptions of municipal water to prevent the aggravation of the water crisis. Supply of water was also maintained through the use of alternative sources of water. Insufficiency of rainfall and reduction of the supply of water in dams has however continued. To cater for the future supply of water, the country is also planning to invest in desalination plants that would substitute the dwindling supplies.

This notwithstanding, the current supply levels have reduced drastically and South Africa’s water crisis has necessitated the implementation of rationing. Under this water shortage disaster management plan South Africans would experience disruptions in their water display. Theoretically, in accordance with the right to accessing water, South Africans would still have access to water. In reality, however, the sufficiency levels would be limited through rationing. In particular, cities can set daily limits and use pressure reduction to reduce water consumption in South Africa as a mitigation strategy of the water crisis.