That aside, it’s important that we not only have sufficient water but that it is also of a quality that is fit for purpose. To say that a water problem is looming is almost historical in statement as the problem is here and with us now. As the world population continues to grow so do we require more and more from the environment around us and at the same time our activities in all their spheres have an ever-increasing impact on the earth, our continent, our country, including our own neighbourhoods.
The impacts of our actions and those around the world, are already with us in the form of climate change, increasing sea levels, melting poles, erratic weather conditions and even water conflicts. Closer to home, in South Africa, these impacts have been felt in the form of severe droughts, extreme rainfall events and excessive demand. Added to this, the challenge of non-revenue water is sitting at an extremely high level of approximately 42%.
Each of these threats has so many varied knock-on effects to our society, economy and natural areas. The various risk models produced from a range of sources all point to most areas in South Africa having a long-term negative water situation, whether it be from a quality or a quantity perspective. NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) has stated that under current efficiency levels, by 2030, South Africa will face a supply-demand deficit of around 17%.
Action is required immediately to address this crisis. To do so will require time and resources, many of which are in short supply. Bold determination is required to address this situation. This is also where all role-players should make both conscious and action-based decisions that will change our mindset towards the use, reuse and recycling of water.
Besides infrastructure management issues, initiatives for water use reduction and behaviour change with regards water management, there are other alternative options (solutions) that should be considered in an all-inclusive approach to this challenge that we as society already face.
The challenges such as water security, climate change, biodiversity and human wellbeing can all be addressed through nature-based solution by means of protecting, sustainably managing and/or restoring natural ecosystems.
Through our daily actions or inaction, be it work, pleasure or survival, each one of us has an impact on the natural environment. This happens whether we are aware of it or not. The World Bank indicates that “estimates suggest that nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the mitigation needed until 2030 to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement”.
There are many possibilities to address nature-based solutions. One of these being ecological restoration where an offset of such a project could be that water quality and predictability in a watershed are improved. These are long-term projects, but the anticipated benefits can be very rewarding not only for the immediate surrounding community and ecosystem but also to those further afield. Some of these benefits come in the form of arable land restoration, reduced water runoff, minimised erosion, improved nature-based recreation, less greenhouse gas emissions, flood protection, improved water purification potential and many more.
Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) considers the green economy to consist of two interlinked development outcomes namely growing economic activity (which leads to investment, jobs and competitiveness) in the green industry sector and a shift in the economy, as a whole, towards cleaner industries and sectors.
According to DFFE, “South Africa views the green economy as a sustainable development path based on addressing the interdependence between economic growth, social protection and natural ecosystem”. It is important that we move beyond just talk to ensure that green economy programs are supported by practical and implementable action plans.
In the green building context, a green economy would influence infrastructure and assets that would down the line cater for enhanced energy and resource efficiency, reduced carbon emissions and pollution as well as prevention of the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. All of these are currently in the focus of green buildings; however, as with so many initiatives these can be enhanced and improved upon. This would obviously be more evident in larger infrastructure projects than in individual residential units.
MEASURING AND MONITORING
One can only manage and work at improving goals and deadlines if there is tangible data available. The fact that people may opt for shorter showers or that facilities are retrofitted with low-flow fittings does in no way mean that water will be saved. As an example, a shorter shower using a non-low-flow shower head or longer shower using low-flow shower head, in both instances may not actually save water. Hence the need to essentially measure and monitor water use on a regular basis. Anecdotal evidence indicates that most homeowners have no idea of how much water they use and are unaware of most leaks until they receive a large water bill.
As part of the need to reduce water use in all properties, is the need to measure and monitor this water use in such a manner that creates change and is proactive should there be excessive use, for whatever reason.
We cannot change what has already happened, but we can influence and affect change in all areas of our future when we take the bold step to reduce out footprint/use, reuse or recycle used goods/products, recycle and recover what we can. Through implementing these environmentally responsible aspects together with the next generation we will be able in the future to continue to say #Wearewater.