South Africa

Finding solutions to South Africa's water crisis

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Like many countries in the world, South Africa is dealing with growing water challenges.

It is also experiencing the worst drought in 23 years, and demand for water is not slowing down. ‘Our latest research shows that if South Africa doesn’t address the gap between water supply and demand now, it will only get bigger by 2035’, says Dr Jakkie Cilliers, head of African Futures and Innovation at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

‘We know the current water crisis poses a big human security challenge for South Africa. But many of the water-resource stresses caused by climate change can be prevented by adapting long-term plans and approaches,’ says Cilliers.

In its updated forecast for the Water Research Commission, the ISS and the Frederick S Pardee Center for International Futures shows that water demand in South Africa will outpace supply every year out to 2035. This is the case even if every reduction measure and large-scale water reconciliation strategy is implemented in time.

For South Africa to find a balance between supply and demand, additional measures are needed. These include groundwater extraction, wastewater treatment and better water conservation.

The new research builds on Parched Prospects, an African Futures paper published in September 2014.

Both papers used unique long-term water demand and supply forecasts developed by ISS researchers using the International Futures forecasting system.

Cilliers shared the findings during his keynote speech at a conference on Water for the Future 2016, hosted by the Western Cape Government from 4 – 5 February. The conference was opened by Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape, Anton Bredell.

The ISS and the Frederick S Pardee Center for International Futures are collaborating with the Office of the Premier and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism in the Western Cape on how to boost economic growth. Building on previous work, four studies are currently in progress including on absorbing the unemployed into the informal economy, the long-term implications of changed spending priorities and enhancing communication and infrastructure in the Western Cape. A compilation of all ISS work done for the province will also be published later this year.

For more information, contact:

Jakkie Cilliers, ISS: +27 83 644 6883,