Our Water Crisis Is More Than The Drought

Last week I attended a GCX organised breakfast on "water as a business risk".

In the up market areas of South Africa we tend to think of water and drought. So in Cape Town everyone knows how much water is left before the rains come (about 100!). In Johannesburg, where we've had wonderful rain, water restrictions have been lifted.

And our maize farmers have also had great rains to effectively break their drought.

Even the Kalahari Desert is no longer a desert (for a few months).

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Drought is not something we can do much about. Yes, climate change in the
anthropocene is having a massive impact on where the rain falls (and when). As is El Niño.

But. The water crisis is bigger than water availability. The water crisis is also about water management - really, how are we managing the little water we do have available to us.

Water scarcity is also about the quality of available water.

Professor Anthony Turton was a keynote speaker at the GCX breakfast and he scared the hell out of me. He presented a load of stats, graphs, scenarios but the really scary part was what is happening to our water right now.

The first is water treatment. As our city populations grow the demand on water treatment facilities increases. Unfortunately this not being done particularly well. Sewage is flowing into our dams and streams and leading to
eutrophic water conditions.

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This basically means that these water bodies have very high nutrient content which promote the growth of cyanobacteria which produce killer
microcystin toxins.

The second issue highlighted by Prof. Turton was that of salinity. Now we should remember that salt is the product of a reduction process and can't be simply broken down further.

The only way to reduce high salt content in water is by diluting it - basically adding more water.

But what happens when there is not enough water? Then basically we'll be drinking water with too high a salt content.
And the Vaal River has a problem.

While this is bloody scary, we don't even want to talk about
Acid Mine Drainage. Or even all the anti-biiotics, chemicals and hormones that are also present in our water system.

If you're feeling a little helpless, depressed and pissed off I don't blame you!

But we can't retreat into dystopian depression. That's not going to help.

Many people doing millions of small good things can make a massive difference.

So what can you do?

For a start stop using dangerous chemicals and soaps. Use biodegradable earth (water) friendly products which you can
find here.

Look after your water as if it is the most precious thing you own. This means putting in rain water tanks, recycling your grey water, fixing leaks, putting in water minimisation shower heads.

For gardeners it means planting indigenous AND endemic plants which are water wise. Endemic is important as it's no good planting a plant from KZN which thrives on high humidity in the Karoo.

Basically its really about acting as if you
live in Cape Town (even when you're in Johannesburg).

And of course
composting your organic waste. This not only improves the water holding capacity of your soil. It also stops organic waste in landfills leaching and polluting our precious underground water resources.

And of course, doing what South African's do best, complaining like hell.
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