Water demand is expected to exceed supply in South Africa by 17 percent in 2030, according to a report released on the eve of World Water Day by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
The report attributes high water usage to the agriculture sector, which uses around 63 percent of water, followed by the municipal and industrial sectors, at 26 percent and 11 percent respectively.
"Water is not something we can assume will be there when we need it, at the quality we need it. Climate change is expected to result in more erratic supplies of water so that means we need to get ready to do more with less," said Christine Colvin, senior manager in the fresh water unit at WWF.
Colvin suggests introducing better farming and forestry methods in water-rich areas, as well as commercialising water technologies. She encouraged people to be more water conscious and to get involved in water governance through partnerships, in order for South Africa to be a water-smart economy.
"We need to more urgently bring in new technologies for more water-efficient irrigation and industrial processes to reduce demand from the big users. Water conservation is necessary along the whole water value chain," said Colvin.
South Africa has been facing a prolonged water crisis, coupled with drought around most parts of the country. The report states that, in the fourth quarter of 2015, the agriculture sector lost a total of 37,000 jobs.
According to the report, one of the reasons for low dam levels is the over-use of stored water. In a previous interview, water and sanitation ministry spokesperson Sputnik Ratau told News24 that the rise in water levels did not mean that people should stop using water sparingly.
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said previously that the recent rains experienced in Gauteng had improved water levels in some of the province's dams, resulting in water restrictions being lifted in the region.
"The state of future water governance is a critical uncertainty and one which needs to be addressed by the private sector, as well as government. Stronger collaboration on shared resources like water will be critical for water security," said Colvin.
Water demand was outpacing supply, with demand expected to grow further.
According to Wazimap — which is a joint project by Media Monitoring Africa and Code for South Africa that provides easy access to South African census and elections data — 76.9 percent of the South African population is getting water from a regional or local service provider. That translates to a total of approximately 39,807,757 people.
Other sources of water in the country include boreholes, rivers and tankers. South Africa celebrates World Water Day on March 22.