The Department of Water Affairs has appealed to all South Africans to play a role in conserving and protecting the country’s water resources. This appeal was made in light of National Water Week, from 18 to 24 March, which is celebrated this year under the theme: Water is Life: Respect it, Conserve it, Enjoy it.

According to a statement made by the department, the theme seeks to emphasise the role of water as central to all forms of life while also urging everyone to play a part in conserving it.

This year’s National Water Week comes at a time when this precious finite resource faces a number of challenges across the country. These include water shortages in certain municipalities and reported water quality concerns. The affected areas include municipalities in the the Free State, Mpumalanga and the North West provinces. However, the department is working closely with municipalities in these areas to urgently address these challenges in the short, medium and long term.

“Our Rapid Response Unit of the department has been deployed to some of the affected areas and progress is being made to address the current challenges. The causes of the water shortages vary according to the different problems faced by the municipalities. In areas where issues of inadequate infrastructure have been identified, officials are undertaking upgrade and repair work; in others, the recent excessive heat or high temperatures that have been experienced has led to the reservoirs drying up and thus affecting water availability and supply.

“It is clear that the department and the sector have to move in earnest to implement the long-term measures that are aimed at addressing these enduring challenges in our localities. The finalisation of the National Water Resource Strategy 2 and implementation of the Water Infrastructure Investment Plan will assist us in moving forward speedily. A renewed sense of urgency and commitment in water management and enduring partnerships with the private sector and entire South African society is needed to deal with the challenges of water availability and security of supply,” said the statement, released by Department of Water Affairs spokesperson Mava Scott.

One of the objectives of Water week is to make South Africans aware of the fact that our country is among the driest in the world and that water conservation is the responsibility of all within our borders. A recent report by the Water Research Commission, which will also be officially released by the minister during National Water Week, indicates that almost half of our drinking water is lost in the distribution system. This water is lost in a variety of ways, through leaking taps and pipes, for example.

In addition, the Water Week Campaign is aimed at:

• educating the public about their responsibility in water conservation initiatives

• raising awareness around the need to protect and conserve the country’s water resources

• highlighting the contribution that water makes to social and economic development.

During Water Week, the minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has lead a series of events around the country to highlight some of the efforts being undertaken by the department to ensure a constant and secure supply of this precious resource.