Mrs Edna Molewa, MP, is the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in South Africa.
In our country of about 50 million people, we face the challenge of freshwater scarcity, which is exacerbated by its growing demand, pollution of its sources, unsustainable usage and wastage. Factors such as climate change and population growth also lead to an increase in water consumption.
EDNA MOLEWA: Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in South Africa
We admit that there are real and significant challenges with regard to water management in our country. In this regard, we have already begun to think creatively about different ways of preserving and protecting this precious resource, thus making more water available for economic growth and the creation of decent jobs.
South Africa is a water-scarce country with a low rainfall – about 50% of the world average – and one of the lowest run-offs in the world. Rainfall is also highly seasonal, with around 80% occurring within a span of five months. While this raises many concerns regarding water availability and security in the country, the South African government believes that if we manage our resources well and use water judiciously, there will be no imminent shortage of water. Current projections indicate that South Africa will, in all probability, exceed the limits of our economically useable land-based water resources by 2050. However, my department is working on innovative measures to ensure that there will be clean water for human consumption for future generations.
We have no option but to change our behaviour and attitudes towards water use, as part of our ongoing endeavours to build sustainable livelihoods for the people of our country. Indeed, if we do not change the way we use our water resources, challenges will be experienced in our initiatives to make more water available for economic growth and the creation of decent jobs. Water limitations will create constraints to meet the energy generation capacity we need for economic growth. It will also impact negatively on the agricultural sector’s ability to create jobs and provide food security for our country. The mining and industrial sectors will also experience constraints in contributing to economic growth and employment creation.
We therefore have a collective responsibility to proactively protect our water resources. In this regard, the work that Nestlé’s Mossel Bay factory in South Africa has done in reducing its water consumption by 50% in 2010 is to be applauded. It is encouraging to note there are companies that look internally into their processes to improve the efficient use of water, thereby encouraging other water users to do the same.
We also congratulate Nestlé as the winner of the 2011 Stockholm Industry Water Award for its leadership, performance and efforts to improve water management within its supply chain globally. The education of the general public on water conservation continues to be highly imperative. Thus, we have begun with campaigns aimed at raising awareness about water conservation and encouraging our communities to get involved in waging war against water wastage. We have also commenced a programme to desalinate sea water for domestic consumption in severely water-stressed areas.
Collectively, these interventions contribute towards making more water available to allow our country to pursue the strategic objective of growing the economy and creating more decent jobs. To improve the collaboration with business, we signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Water Resources Group (WRG), an influential public–private global network on water, supported by the World Economic Forum and the International Finance Corporation. The intent is to forge a partnership with WRG through a public–private group, chaired by a Director-General of my department, to oversee the activities to address critical water issues in South Africa: water conservation, demand management and developing more sustainable management of groundwater resources.
We invite all citizens of South Africa to support us in this quest to make our country a water-conscious country for the benefit of present and future generations. As we chart a new policy context, we shall continue to infuse in our approach the constitutional and human rights imperatives towards our service delivery model.
We trust that we can continue to rely on the support of various stakeholders, particularly companies like Nestlé, as we do our work to make more water available for economic growth and the creation of decent jobs.
The comments on this page are the author’s independent opinions and are not necessarily shared by Nestlé.