Water Wednesday: Rainwater harvesting could be the future for South Africa

Rainwater harvesting is no new phenomenon. The practice has been long-established by human beings. The ancient Romans built houses with rooftops specifically designed to catch rain and store it for general household use. The practice became less popular with the evolution of modern cities around the world. Central pressurised water supply systems were built instead and many have become accustomed to water coming out of taps in different households.

According to The Water Project, in 2008 about five million people lacked access to water in South African and 15 million lacked access to basic sanitation. This number has improved since the end of apartheid but gives a clear picture of how many South Africans benefit from the central water supply system.

With a growing population and unpredictable flood and drought patterns, this has put an enormous strain of the country’s water supply.

The recent water crisis has made the infrastructural problems around our water systems glaringly obvious. Last year, a number of highways were flooded due to construction and drainage problems. This resulted in a number of accidents, injuries and damaged cars.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has been looking at different solutions to combat the water shortages. Last year, former Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane visited the British American Tobacco South Africa’s Heidelberg factory. The factory is the eighth largest within the BAT group internationally and the first to invest in rain water harvesting technologies aimed at reducing municipal water use.

The visit by Mokonyane was part of initiatives by the department aimed at promoting alternative technologies.

Rainwater harvesting has held an important place in drought-stricken and rural areas around South Africa in the past. It provides an important solution to reducing the environmental impact of urbanization and a cost-effective way of reducing the need for a central infrastructure to supply water to all the inhabitants of South Africa.

This method is also a practical way in which every person in the country can contribute to improving the quality and sustainability of our water supply for future generations.


Still not convinced?

Here are three reasons why rainwater harvesting could be the best solution for South Africa.

  1. Polluted water runs into our dams and rivers creating a high risk of water-borne diseases.
  2. We have reached a point where we can no longer ignore the impact of the carbon footprint of operating, maintaining and expanding our central water systems.
  3. While water remains one of the cheapest commodities. The costs are set to rise between 10-15 percent in the next few years.

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