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Hlengiwe Cele 
National Water Week 2015: Take responsibility for water you use

South Africa’s theme for National Water Week 2015 “Water has no substitute” is a stark reminder of the fact that the amount of water available per person in South Africa is actually diminishing as our population and economy grows, increasing the demand for water, so says SABI (South African Irrigation Institute).

However, it is in anyone’s power to take steps to save water. And for Water Week, the South African Irrigation Institute (SABI) is urging all irrigation water users, agricultural and urban – whether you are irrigating a farm, sports field, lawn or an urban veggie garden - to be inspired and take note of what practices, innovations and technologies to optimise water use are being adopted by leading irrigation water users and authorities.

There are better water management options out there that are technically, environmentally and financially feasible – and water users should step up to the challenge and make every single drop count, is the message from SABI, a non-profit institute dedicated to promoting knowledge of optimal irrigation and water conservation in all spheres of the socio-economy in South Africa.

SABI’s technical executive officer Isobel van der Stoep, who researches water measurement technologies and their efficacy and trains SABI students on ways to optimise irrigation and water conservation, says good examples of good water management are being set by Water User Associations (WUAs) such as Vaalharts Water who are constructing a new canal to eliminate the losses experienced in the 60-year-old infrastructure.

“The Western Cape’s Department of Agriculture’s Fruitllook remote sensing program which uses satellite technology to measure water use accurately is a further excellent example of good and innovative practice.  An inspiring range of irrigation boards and WUAs in South Africa are investing in water measurement infrastructure and other management tools, such as those supported by the Water Research Commission (WRC).

Notably, in the World Economic Forum’s recent Global Risk Perception Survey, a future water crisis was identified by the some 900 experts as having the most damaging consequences of all crises identified. The Survey also found that in respondents below 30 years old, a water crisis is the “most worrying”, showing that a water crisis is a key concern for future generations.

 “In addition to the intensified demand for water with South Africa’s socio-economic growth, other factors such as ageing water supply infrastructure and variable rainfall further exacerbate the situation. The bottom line is that every citizen should take responsibility for the water he or she uses or manages,” comment SABI’s technical executive officer Isobel van der Stoep.

“The fact is that the average water user in South Africa seldom gives much thought or may not even be aware of the fact that the amount of water annually available from ground and surface water resources varies around a constant average from year-to-year. Water is, indeed, unique, it cannot be likened to any other resource in its quantification, role or nature,” adds van der Stoep.

SABI address two areas of professional irrigation disciplines – agricultural and urban landscape irrigation. Although urban landscapes differ greatly from agriculture, education of water users in these areas are even of greater importance as it is often expensive, purified water that is being used to irrigate gardens and sports fields, according to SABI.

“Through water-wise planning of gardens and landscapes, and a basic understanding of water use by plants, urban gardeners and facility managers can optimise water use and reduce their consumption, which also makes business sense,” says van der Stoep.

It is up to us all to make a difference by exploring the options financially, technically and environmentally available to use, in the ways we manage and use the water we are fortunate enough to have access to.

For more information, please contact SABI Technical Executive Officer Isobel van der Stoep 082 331 4987, isobel@sabi.co.za, or to arrange an interview: SABI media manager Carol Posthumus 083 298 7623 or 021 850 8220, carol@sabi.co.za


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