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South Africa's Water Crisis Is About More Than Droughts And Restrictions

Unless we relook swimming pools and golf courses, we could find ourselves without sufficient water for basic human needs...

10/01/2017 04:56 SAST | Updated 01/03/2017 09:20 SAST
Per-Anders Pettersson / Getty Images
Danie Olivier and his children Dane and Louis play in a swimming pool on January 12, 2003 in Orania, in the Northern Cape province, South Africa.

'The World Will Soon be at War Over Water' trumpeted Newsweek in April 2015. Water is scarce in many parts of the world, including South Africa.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a third of the world's population faces water shortages. And by 2025 two-thirds of us could be in serious trouble.

Despite 70% of the earth being covered in water, says the WWF, less than 1% of that is fresh and accessible. This barely-a-fraction 1% is what we are continuously, nonchalantly using for washing ourselves, our laundry and dishes, watering gardens, brushing teeth, cleaning homes and cars, topping up swimming pools, or turning on the hose for the kids to play in during the heat of summer.

This doesn't include our drinking water needs. And since water is crucial for life, it's a human right to have access to water. If every one of the world's population of 7.5 billion people drinks their recommended two litres per day, that's 60 billion litres of water consumed daily around the world.

Demand for golf courses remains high among the wealthy, and golf course housing estates in South Africa have attracted significant investment from private investors. Yet, the same desire for a recreational facility on your doorstep can be met in a development with a water recreation site.

With regards to swimming pools, a country like South Africa needs to apply different thinking. In my home province of the Western Cape, thousands of homes in middle-class areas have their own pools, and there are 39 public swimming pools in the province too. So, the water requirements are huge. Since we have a warm climate, this is replicated all over the country. Unless we relook the way we deal with swimming pools, we could find ourselves without sufficient water for basic human needs while the swimming pools are maintained and left looking pristine.

While the current water restrictions attempt to deal with the swimming pool issue by limiting owners from filling pools that are not kept covered to reduce evaporation, there are many other solutions. And, since water recreational facilities remain ever popular, the demand by developers for constructing these amenities will continue. So, they should be built taking account of new technologies available to reduce water loss. For example, in lagoons constructed by Crystal Lagoons, a film-based evaporation-control technology is used which spreads an invisible anti-evaporation layer on the surface of the lagoon and lowers waste-water rates by between 30% and 70%.

Demand for golf courses remains high among the wealthy, and golf course housing estates in South Africa have attracted significant investment from private investors. Yet, the same desire for a recreational facility on your doorstep can be met in a development with a water recreation site. These cater for the whole family, and can be far more water-efficient than even an environmentally-friendly golf course. For instance, if constructed appropriately, a lagoon of three hectares in size uses 30 times less water than a golf course, and half the amount of water required to maintain a park of the same size. These sorts of facilities also do not require fresh water, and instead can be created and maintained using salt or previously unusable brackish water.

Does the scarcity of fresh water mean we can't possibly allow for more amenities to drain what precious little resources we have? No, but to keep them alive, thriving, and sustainable, it is crystal clear that we need to tap into the latest developments in science and technology.