South Africa – Profile

The challenge

In South Africa, water demand is expected to rise over the next 20 years while its supply is likely to decline. Persistently poor usage habits, physical and commercial water losses and ecological degradation, such as the loss of wetlands, have been among the chief causes for the impending crisis. Population growth in South Africa is playing a significant role in increasing water demand while economic growth has led to increased water requirements for agricultural and industrial uses. The two factors, considered together, have led to a growing middle class which has a larger water consumption rate overall.

Water scarcity means increasingly higher water costs, and allocative forces then direct water to prioritize urban and industrial, where the country’s increase in total water demand is largely attributable to. South Africa will have to resolve tough trade-offs between agriculture, key industrial activities such as mining and power generation, and large and growing urban centers. According to the analysis done by the Water Resources Group, based on growth projections and current efficiency levels, it is anticipated that a water supply-demand gap of 17% will exist by 2030. 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.

Our role

In no country has our partnership progressed further than South Africa. In late 2011 we established a multi-stakeholder platform – the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) – to support government efforts to develop and sharpen programs in three areas: water efficiency and leakage reduction; effluent and wastewater management; and agricultural and supply chain. Since then the government has already decided to implement one SWPN proposal, the No Drop incentives program to reduce municipal leakage. Now it seeks to enhance treatment and reuse of mine water between mining and municipalities and improve water use efficiency in agriculture.

The SWPN has rapidly become South Africa’s leading multi-stakeholder platform: fostering trust, engaging stakeholders, raising funds, forging partnerships and advancing practical projects. Combined, the ”No Drop” and the “Mine Effluent pilot and National Impact Projects” have the estimated potential to shrink South Africa’s projected 17% water gap by about 3.8%, a figure that could increase substantially when we also implement other water-saving projects in agriculture.