Mining, agriculture wastes most water in South Africa

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Mining and agricultural enterprises are South Africa’s biggest water-related crime offenders, with one mine fined R1-million and others under investigation.

Sputnik Ratau, spokesman for the national department of water and sanitation, told Weekend Argus this was the biggest fine issued for a water-related crime in the last financial year.

The Inkomati Anthracite Mine, which is partly owned by the Mpumalanga provincial government, was fined for the “using of water otherwise than permitted under the National Water Act”.

It had reportedly previously closed down for allegedly operating without a water licence.

The department has meanwhile opened 67 cases of water crimes with the police. Most of the cases are against persons or companies “engaging in water uses without authorisation”.

The fines were issued in different sectors, with the mining and agriculture industries contravening most water laws.

Most mining sector water crimes are being investigated in KwaZulu Natal, followed by Mpumalanga, which also tops the list for the most agricultural-related water offenses.

Mpumalanga has the water crimes currently under investigation, with the country’s only tourism crime also in this province.

Limpopo has the least water crimes nationally, followed by the Western Cape.

Ratau said the department aimed to “protect the resources of the state, both by means of deterrent from abuse and pollution”.

“The ultimate is to deter citizens from water wastage. South Africa is a water scarce country,” said Ratau.

“What we all need to understand is that in case we continue not to be careful of what we have, there is every chance of getting into a state of panic.

“Our rainfall in the rainy season just past was even lower than what we need, thus the drought that hit provinces like KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and the Free State.

“Now moving into the dry season, we will have even less water to spare.”

Ratau said water cuts, if considered, “will be localised decisions within municipalities depending on availability”.

The City of Cape Town earlier this month said the city’s “dam levels are at slightly lower levels than previous years”.

It said: “Reserve storage and, if necessary, the imposing of relatively short-term water restrictions, will allow for continued water supply during severe droughts.

“In order to avoid this kind of action, over the past few years the city has intensified its focus on proactive measures to reduce water wastage.”

Business Day newspaper also reported earlier this month that South Africa was “already using 98% of its water supply”.

“A recent government report suggests the state should spend almost R300-billion over the next four years to avoid a full-scale water crisis, which is roughly more than 100 times the budget allocated by the Treasury to water management nationwide,” it reported.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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