South Africa: National Infrastructure Plan 2050 Sets Water Priorities

Cities Face Increasing Restrictions To Help Meet Growing Demand

23 Mar 2022 by The Water Diplomat
PRETORIA, South Africa

All of South Africa's major metropolitan areas face water restrictions within the next five years, according to the newly-released National Infrastructure Plan 2050.

With six out of eight major cities already experiencing restrictions, it is estimated that seven out of 13 major water systems could be in deficit by 2040, warned Infrastructure minister, Patricia De Lille on 11 March.

“According to the National Water and Sanitation Master plan, in the absence of timely interventions, the demand for water will exceed the available supply at the planned level of assurance by between 1.6 billion and 2.7 billion cubic metres by 2030, a deficit of around 10% to 15% of required water” the plan warns.

“Increases in irrigated area will need to be achieved through a combination of expanded water availability and more efficient use of existing water use rights. Water use in South Africa’s urban areas is high and there are high levels of non-revenue water and water losses.”

“Of particular concern is the poor state and performance of wastewater treatment plants. Many plants are under-capacity and have been poorly maintained. This has significant economic impacts, particularly for downstream users.”

According to the 2050 infrastructure plan, irrigated water use may have to increase by a further 6% (up from the existing 60%), to maintain current crop yields. This, despite an overall water deficit.

The plan goes on to discuss the declining water quality in rivers and wetlands due to increases in pollution from urban, industrial, mining, and agricultural activities, reducing water availability and increasing treatment costs.

The infrastructure plan with respect to water acknowledges significant improvement in water use efficiency over the past 10 years.

It underscores that the overall economy and healthy environment relies on universal access to reliably high quality water and identifies actions required to achieve the vision for water infrastructure 2050.

These include:

  • accountable decision-making
  • resource planning

  • coherent policy development and implementation

  • effective use of private sector to stimulate financing

  • infrastructure rehabilitation

  • regulatory oversight for quantity, quality, pricing, performance and sustainability

The plan also sets some priorities and implementation goals including establishment of a Water Resources Infrastructure Agency and single national water regulator; completion of a raw water pricing strategy; a plan for ensuring the viability of municipal wastewater plants; and, a policy for water use in agriculture.

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