An Introduction to South Africa's Water Source Areas
Our ingenuity as a nation has focused on overcoming these limitations – bringing water to where we need it, storing it for when we need it, and enabling us to build our economy. The 1930s and then the 1970s and 80s saw a massive investment in dams and inter-basin transfer schemes to meet the needs of our growing economy.
A massive and expensive network of engineered infrastructure supplies the drier parts of the country. Gauteng, North West province and Limpopo, and major urban centers such as Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town are supplied via dams, transfers and pumping schemes.
The cost to upgrade and maintain this engineered infrastructure is estimated at R680 billion over the next decade.
However, water doesn’t just come from a dam, a pipe or a tap. Our modern water cycle is comprised of both engineered infrastructure and ecological infrastructure. The built (engineered) part of our water system is dependent on the healthy functioning of the natural (ecological) part of the system.
The last century has seen a focus on the engineered system, the part that we can design and control. Our water security in this century will depend on our ability to plan our development in a way that is compatible with ecological infrastructure and limits the impacts that diminish nature’s ability to provide us with water.
We need to acknowledge the limitations of our natural water resources and prioritise their use and protection if we are to grow a sustainable economy that meets the needs and aspirations of all South Africans.