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​The theme of National Water Week is “Water is life: respect it, conserve it, enjoy it”, underlining the need to manage this scarce natural resource.
JOHANNESBURG Water is gearing up to celebrate National Water Week, which this year has the theme “Water is life: respect it, conserve it, enjoy it”. The week runs from 5 to 11 March.

This year's theme is 'WaterResidents are called upon to conserve waterThe municipal-owned entity is also calling on residents to help conserve and protect the city’s water resources.

Tebatso Baldwin Matsimela, Joburg Water’s marketing and communications manager, says: “We are not just dedicating a week for the awareness campaign, but are using this as an opportunity and a platform to call upon residents to do their bit in conserving water on a daily basis. It’s a collective effort and we can win this battle once all role players have come to the party.”

Water Week will be officially launched at Thokoza Park on 5 March. Matsimela says there will be interaction with community members and the programme of action will be outlined.

Scarce resource
South Africa has been identified as a water scarce country. Rainfall varies dramatically from season to season and the limited water availability is distributed unevenly across the country.

Earlier this week, Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa spoke about the government’s plans to spend billions on infrastructure, in particular on water infrastructure. South Africa could face a “near crisis situation” with its water supply within the next decade if urgent steps were not taken, she said on 28 February.

Warnings have been sounded that increasing demand for water would place severe strain on the country’s ability to supply this finite resource. In his Budget Review a week earlier, tabled on 22 February, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said South Africa would start running out of water 13 years from now without better management.

“On current projections, South Africa’s water demand will outstrip available supply between 2025 and 2030,” the review states.

He allocated R75-billion over the next three years for water infrastructure, quality management, resource planning and support to local government to address this problem. Molewa said: “We don’t want to wait until we have a situation like we have with electricity.”

Apart from infrastructure upgrades and developments, she indicated another option was the “realignment” of water prices. Each year, the water boards applied for and set their own tariffs for various agricultural and industrial users.

“This inequality is what we want to address at the moment … Every year there is this approach, and we really think this is not on. By the end of the year [2012] we will have that programme in place.”

The public would be invited to give input on the programme, which would affect the price they would pay for water, before it was taken to the cabinet for approval, she said.

Molewa said the problems of leakages also needed to be addressed. In some areas, up to 41 percent of the water supplied was being lost before it even got to the user. Furthermore a behavioural change needed to be made by South Africans. “If we don’t act, we will face a near crisis situation in the future.”

In his state of the nation address on 9 February, President Jacob Zuma said Water Affairs would “invest heavily in the maintenance and construction of bulk water supply infrastructure over the next two years”.

Water Week
Against this background, National Water Week is an important week-long awareness campaign to focus attention on water as a scarce and rare commodity. In Johannesburg, activities will highlight key issues affecting the state of water in the region and will continue building awareness of the need for water conservation. A number of educational activities have also been planned.

Several activities will invlove educational Water Week activities will invlove educational tours of all regions “We are going to visit all the regions in the city educating and raising awareness of the importance of saving and conserving water. This will be done through exhibitions and educational workshops,” Matsimela says. “We believe that the week-long activities will help in raising awareness and change perceptions when it comes to water resources while encouraging responsible use of water on a daily basis.”

Joburg Water points out that this awareness is coupled with the responsibility that every resident should take to ensure the integrity of the city’s water resources and their efficient use. “We therefore appeal to all residents to take practical steps to conserve and protect our resources.”

Practical steps would be checking that there are no leaks – either seen or hidden – at their homes; turning the taps off while washing their faces, brushing their teeth and shaving; using a bucket rather than a hosepipe to wash cars; and avoiding flushing the toilet unnecessarily.

More water saving tips can be found on the Joburg Water website.

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