June 21, 2011

Water, not gold, but a priceless commodity we must preserve

To predict that South Africa will run out of drinkable water in a year’s time sounds wonderfully surreal, but it isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem.

Southern Africa has already run out of water. In many regions, our city planners already have had to put alternative measures in place. Municipalities that have already set about implementing technology such as desalination plants or effluent treatment systems should be commended for doing so. Those who still fighting the general assumption that it is too costly for both the consumer and the local authority to implement should stop dawdling and start running through a few worst-case scenarios.

Just ask the municipality of the Karoo town such as Beaufort West what it feels like when your local storage dams dry out because of drought. We believe that it is only once more people have experienced firsthand what it feels like to be rationed to the number of times you are to flush your toilet in a week or the quantity of water you can drink, that the message of saving and planning for imminent water shortages will start to sink in.

If those in the know were not worried about our water situation, there would have been no need to form the Stellenbosch University Water Institution to look into issues such as water provision, water management, and a sustainable environment. It would have not been necessary to have established a similar venture, the Water Research Commission.

For that matter, there would have not been for Sannitree International to look into issues such as wastewater treatment, ownership, and ways of conserving water. It is a fact that water has an influence on our economic development and growth. It is a fact that South Africa, at all levels needs to act now to play its part in safeguarding our precious water. In most South African cities, the biggest water users, wasters and polluters are breweries, hospitals, university campuses, and business parks.

When planning and building new ones, it should become non-negotiable that more efficient water usage practices form part of the exercise. We need more waterless toilets in our new housing developments. We need decentralized water treatment systems in new office parks. We need to recycle our water more. We need indigenous gardens to flourish. For that matter, Sannitree International has introduced the free-flowing waterless urinal valve.

The new valve is a breakthrough invention because it not only drastically reduces the use and cost of water but is also far more hygienic than conventional systems. It is a completely waterless system, simple retrofit, air-tight seal, and deodorizing dome to keep ablution facilities completely odorless and easy to clean. We need to use water sparingly.

We need to treat it as the priceless, commodity that it is. If we do not take care of our water now, it will come at a too costly price for us. And next year might simply come too soon.

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