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World Water Day celebrated with an innovative purpose

Publication Date: 
Friday, April 8, 2016

On 22 March 2016, the global community celebrated World Water Day (WWD). In South Africa, WWD coincides with the National Water Week, which serves as a powerful campaign mechanism re-iterating the value of water, the need for the sustainable management of this scarce resource and the role water plays in eradicating poverty and under-development.

Contact Person

Tendani Tsedu

+27 (0) 12 841 3417

mtsedu@csir.co.za

On 22 March 2016, the global community celebrated World Water Day (WWD). In South Africa, WWD coincides with the National Water Week, which serves as a powerful campaign mechanism re-iterating the value of water, the need for the sustainable management of this scarce resource and the role water plays in eradicating poverty and under-development.

This year’s theme: Water and Jobs, provides an important opportunity to consolidate and build upon the previous WWDs to highlight the two-way relationship between water and the decent work agenda in the quest for sustainable development.

The aim is to raise awareness on how clean water can change the lives of workers and even transform entire societies and economies. The theme shows the correlations between water and jobs created, either directly or indirectly, by water sources on the globe. As water scarcity worsens around the globe, industries heavily dependent on water, like textiles and agriculture, are at risk of increased costs.

South Africa is still going through the worst drought in 30 years. For a country short of arable land, with low rainfall and fairly empty dams and with a large proportion of people who do not have easy access to running water at the best of times, this is a cause for great concern.

Five provinces have been declared disaster areas as dams have run dry, boreholes failed and the summer rains been replaced with unrelenting heat. With food security threatened as affected farms are unable to harvest crops or feed their livestock. It is also forecasted that food prices will significantly increase should the drought continue. Furthermore, in South Africa, only 8% of our land area produces 50% of our river flows. The high rainfalls and mountainous water source areas are the backbone of our ecological infrastructure.

With an estimated R16 billion lost in the agricultural sector due to our inability to cope with the drought, South Africa is facing crop losses, rising food prices and loss of agricultural jobs. Water, as well as the lack of it, is now top of mind.

World Wide Fund-South Africa (WWF-SA) together with the CSIR has mapped water source areas and the Department of Environmental Affairs is proposing a 19th Strategic Integrated Project to prioritise their restoration and develop new green-economy job opportunities.

WWF-SA urged the public and the private sectors to urgently address the bold changes needed to address climate change, in order to create a water-secure future with sustainable job growth.

As part of the nationwide challenge for South Africa, a Hack4Water campaign was initiated by the Department of Water and Sanitation, in partnership with Open Government Partnership South Africa, to invite people to submit innovative ideas and solutions on how to address our water and sanitation needs.

In addition, another project called Operation Hydrate has been successful in the last couple of months. Operation Hydrate played a huge role by ensuring that South Africans affected by the drought have access to water. The aim of the project was to get water to the areas that are most affected by the drought. The general public, private and public sectors, as well as the CSIR, have donated millions of litres of water to alleviate the water scarcity in affected communities. A campaign was run at the CSIR for staff to bring litres of water to contribute to Operation Hydrate. The participation from the staff was enormous and success, with more than 1 500 litres of water collected.