What will happen if there’s not enough water in South Africa?

While rural citizens suffer the most, over 26 percent of all schools (urban or rural), and 45 percent of clinics, have no water access either. This lack of access to clean water across South Africa will result in many difficulties including issues with health, education, gender equity, and economic development.

The water risk is also likely to result in a number of socio-political events that could well destabilize the local, provincial, or national government.  Such events could include:

  • Civil unrest and instability: Water stress can spark civil unrest over water availability and quality or government water management practices.
  • Water stress can lead to the emergence of a “black market” for water: In Zimbabwe and Kenya, a black market for water has emerged in part due to the government’s failure to extend water infrastructure into poor areas. These water black markets are unregulated, leaving vendors open to selling contaminated water and increasing the cost of water at their will.
  • When mechanisms for resolving water conflict at the local level break down, disputes over water can turn violent. Prominent examples of localized conflicts are those between herding communities clashing violently with local farming communities over land. Localized violence has the potential to escalate internationally if water resources are shared across state borders.

This imbalance in the population-water resources equation has adverse impacts on domestic hygiene, public health, and the cost of domestic water. 

On the social side, water scarcity adversely impacts job opportunities, farm incomes, the credibility and reliability of agricultural exports, and the ability of the vulnerable to meet the cost of domestic water. 

Economically, the adverse impact is displayed in the loss of production of goods, especially agricultural goods, and the loss of working hours because of the hardships society faces as a result of water scarcity.

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