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Desalination and rain harvesting to aid in SA water shortage

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The Department of Water and Sanitation has said rain water harvesting and desalination are on the cards as part of its measures to tackle the country’s current drought and water shortage.

These plans were outlined by DWS Minister Nomvula Mokonyane at a briefing by the drought Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) in Pretoria today.

“South Africa is naturally water-strained and is regarded as the 30th driest country in the world with an average annual rainfall of 464mm, compared to a global average of 860mm,” Mokonyane said.

“With regards to water source augmentations, we’re looking at expanding trans-boundary relations, but we also want to move away from reliance on surface water. Desalination is a reality, responding and the use of acid mine drainage water is also another reality as well as many other options we’ll have to look at,” Mokonyane said.

Desalination involves the removal of salts and minerals from salt water to produce fresh water suitable for human consumption or irrigation.

This process is not a cheap one however, according to recent estimations, desalination in the US can typically cost around $2 00 (about R26 000) per 1233 cubic metres, which is significantly higher than building a new reservoir or recycling waste water.

“We will in the next two weeks, see some of our international partners working with us in the coastal areas to put up major desalination plants,” Mokonyane said.

Mokonyane also mentioned that once rain does begin falling in the country, rain water harvesting will also be looked at in the foreseeable future. “As we change our designs, one of the things we have to look at is to make sure our properties do have the capacity to harvest rain,” she added.

Some of the other measures introduced by government include deploying 18 000 water tanks across the country, borehole drilling and combating pollution in rivers.

“To date we have intervened in drought mitigation measures in support of provinces, specifically KwaZulu-Natal and we are now implementing measures in the Free State and North West, where some of the worst drought conditions have been experienced,” Mokonyane said.

[Image – CC Public Domain]

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