Dry spells compel water utilities to commence water restrictions
Water utilities in South Africa are compelled to implement water restrictions in order to meet water demand during this drought period. While this may be new to some consumers, other parts of the country are already used to this situation.
Bad as they are to consumers, water restrictions are measures undertaken by water authorities to restrict the demand for water in an effort to mitigate the risk of running out of water during a drought.
A Water Research Commission (WRC) study published in 2012 entitled “A compendium of water conservation and water demand management interventions and measures at the municipal level in South Africa” (WRC Report No. TT519/12) indicates that water restrictions were implemented by the Department of Water Affairs in the Western Cape, in Beaufort West in January 2010, as a measure to reduce water demand. At that time, Beaufort West was required to reduce the volume of water abstracted by 40 per cent and prohibit residents with private boreholes from abstracting groundwater for irrigation of gardens between 7h00 and 17h00.
Gauteng residents have already started experiencing water cuts as implemented by Rand Water, the biggest water utility in South Africa.
Prof Geoff Pegram at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said, “We are all certainly going to have to suffer water supply restrictions – I recall the drought of the 1980s when, for over six months, we in Durban were reduced to 400 litres per day for a household of 6; if we went over our quota, the municipal water people inserted washers with small holes into our water meters to throttle our usage. The problem is that they cannot do that with unmetered consumers”.
Prof Pegram further noted that most people are not going to voluntarily cut their water use – it seems that we do not have a very communal caring attitude in this country, but tend rather to look after our own interests. The restrictions to reduce water consumption and spread out the supply are going to have to be official.
“Just as it took many TV warnings to get the message into our heads that we need to be mindful of our electricity usage. I think the same approach is going to be needed for people to realize that they need to be responsible consumers of water,” said Pegram.
As mentioned above, a WRC study, “A compendium of water conservation and water demand management interventions and measures at the municipal level in South Africa” highlights practices that have been undertaken in the country to mitigate water supply problems during dry spells.
The WRC report recommends however that residents be notified ahead of time when water cut-offs are implemented. This allows for making alternative arrangements such as filling up of water bottles and buckets so that people don’t run out of water needed for household use.
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