SA Needs To Curb Water Wastage

South Africans have less than 100 cubic metres of accessible fresh water per person, making the country the 30th most water scarce in the world. This is according to a report by the World Resources Institute.

In the past two decades, urbanisation in South Africa has increased by 68%, and this is projected to continue.  “As people move into more densely populated areas, the demand for water increases,” explains Adronicca Masemola, head of public sector for KPMG in South Africa. “The resultant additional pressure on water infrastructure necessitates increased levels of maintenance, which places significant pressure on the budgets of cities and provinces.”

Inadequate water resources

The average annual rainfall for South Africa is 500mm/year, while the global average is a much higher 860mm/year. Not only are the natural water sources low, but the rainfall South Africa experiences is uneven and poorly dispersed. The wettest areas in the country are far removed from the industrial, urban and agricultural hubs in South Africa, causing even more headaches for water infrastructure.

In 2012, Financial Mail reported that Water affairs minister Edna Molewa said her department would need R668 billion during the next 10 years in order to manage the growing backlog in infrastructure.

Non-revenue water loss

Not only is the country faced with severe water shortages but it must also contend with water loss or non-revenue water which amounts to 36% or 480.9 gigalitres. Water loss is a direct result of broken or leaky pipes for which municipalities are unable to charge.

“To reduce the levels of non-revenue water, a number of key challenges must be addressed. These include monitoring, billing and maintenance,” says Masemola. “The implementation of effective systems to monitor water use at municipal level is crucial. Many municipalities do not monitor their use of water. Introducing monitoring is the first step that will enable comprehensive measurement of the extent of non-revenue water.”

Currently, rural municipalities have a non-revenue water rate of 72.5%, while metropolitan municipalities are averaging around 34.3% water loss. Rural municipalities have such a high water loss, despite servicing less citizens, due to poorer infrastructure. The simple fact is that they have less resources to be able to recover costs.

How to fix the water problem

Masemola says to reduce water loss, South Africa must implement effective management and maintenance strategies. If a better billing system is put in place then municipalities will be able to recoup more costs, and in turn improve infrastructures. Masemola emphasises that the water infrastructure needs to be improved as the first step towards eradicating future non-revenue water losses.

Masemola encourages municipalities to start thinking outside the box when it comes to redressing the water shortage and loss in the country. Once that mindset is achieved, then the country can start working towards reducing the scarcity of its fresh available water. “We believe that these challenges are most effectively addressed by combining technical, commercial and management skills, together with an understanding of the industry,” says Masemola.

For further reading, go to these sites:
1.    Razina Munshi, “Is water SA’s next crisis?”, Financial Mail, 3 August 2012. Available at:
2.    “Urbanisation and plugging water losses”, Mail & Guardian, 27 March 2014. Available at:

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One Response to SA Needs To Curb Water Wastage

  1. Adelle 13246152 03/05/2014 at 10:16 am #

    Being a first year BScAgri Applied Plant and Soil Science Student, I find this to be a very concerning issue. Especially knowing that South Africa is the 30th most water scarce country in the world. I agree with Masemola, the municipalities need to start thinking of better and more efficient ways of solving this water shortage problem. With our growing population the demand for food will only increase. The agriculture sector is a very important part of the country and without a sufficient water supply we will be unable to produce good quality produce to support the food needs of the people.

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