Looking at ways to expand South Africa’s pool of water resources was addressed at a round table discussion held at the end of last week in Johannesburg.

Hosted by engineering company GIBB, the discussion brought together leaders in the water sector. Some of the main discussion points raised included the option of introducing desalination plants, which are currently being explored in the City of Cape Town, as well as the reuse of wastewater by turning it into potable water.

The Department of Water and Sanitation’s infrastructure director general, Leonardo Manus, highlighted the department’s plans to pursue these alternative sources. The department said exploring alternative sources was necessary as it would help ensure water consumers shift from mainly relying on dams and reservoirs.

“Over time, cities have generated an unnatural demand of water, and as more people move to the cities there will be economic growth that comes with the introduction of industrial manufacturing,” Manus said. “This increases demand for water, meanwhile our water resources remain the same. There is therefore a definite need to re-look at how we handle our water resources and most importantly how we use water.”

Industry leaders also addressed the issue of “human behavioural change towards water”. They said this was a challenge that contributed towards water scarcity in the country as consumers did not have a sustainable mind set when using the resource.

They agreed that although new technologies are vital to increase water supply, some social problems cannot be solved with technical solutions. They agreed that public awareness campaigns are needed to inflict change in the way people respond to certain situations that result in water losses.

The roundtable discussion was also held as an initiative to encourage private sector involvement in the water industry to ensure collective solutions to water challenges.