What is the world’s most valuable commodity? Water. Even the world’s most expensive commodities are worth nothing without water. Water is essential for life.
Water is difficult to measure, difficult to price and often difficult to charge. That is why many people think it should be free. Although mostly unpriced, it is the most valuable commodity of all times and at all times.
All of us need water to drink, to bath, flush our toilets, make that hot or cold drink and even cook our food for lunch or dinner. Even our industries need water to function and contribute to economic growth.
However, that old saying that “you never miss the water until the well runs dry” has been given many variations by water shortages in different parts of the country.
Precious as it is to life, water gets little attention until there isn’t enough of it. Spare a thought for those who are experiencing water shortages and are being rationed.
In our province, while the rainfall may have helped with the long-standing dry spell we’ve had, most weather forecasters are still predicting long, hot and dry summer periods that will again cause drought-like conditions across the Eastern Cape.
But why do we occasionally endure water shortages year in and year out, here and across our nine provinces? Is it because of the rapid growth of our population and abuse of available supplies?
The demand for water is rising inexorably as our population increases. As we improve our standard of living, our per capita requirement for water is also increasing in a comparable fashion.
Indeed, water is one of our greatest resources and one that we are constantly wasting.
Think of the waste in places where damaged pipes send water down drains sometimes simply because they’re in need of repair or are left partly open throughout the day for one reason or another. Meters go on clicking whether water is being utilised properly or not utilised at all.
Even where there are no meters, the careless use of water can cause shortages that in turn, costs money. Wasted water is wasted money.
So what is the solution to our water shortages? What we need is long-range planning now.
As a matter of course, communities of all sizes ought to be encouraging or requiring water conservation efforts from every citizen and business, and not only in dry summers.
Indeed, just as recycling was born out of education and commitment and is now regarded as “cool”, community resources should be directed to helping people and businesses achieve clear goals meant to conserve and protect water.
Of course, we are not the only ones facing water challenges. According to the World Bank, about 300-million people live in areas of serious to severe water shortage.
The bank says 25 years from now, three billion will live in these areas. In the next 50 to 90 years, the world’s population will double or come close to doubling, while our water supply is constant.
The World Bank warning continues:
• 40% of the world’s population faces water shortages;
• By 2025, half of the world’s population – 3.5-billion people – will face serious water shortages, particularly in North Africa and West Asia;
• One billion people still lack access to safe drinking water; and
• Global water use has increased six-fold over the last century, twice the rate of population growth.
You may consider the above warning distant from your life. But don’t. All of us should be paying close attention to the availability of water – now and in the future.
In order to avoid critical water shortages, we’ll need a combination of rain and conservation.
While we’re working hard to ensure you have clean water, there are many ways to conserve water. I’ll list a few:
• Repair dripping water pipes;
• Take a three-minute shower. Quick in and out is the way to go;
• Remember to turn off your sprinkler;
• Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth, shaving, washing your hands, or rinsing dishes or watering vegetables or washing your car;
• Don’t wash the dishes or use the clothes washer until you have a full load of dishes or clothes;
• Should there be a major break in a water pipe, knowing how to shut off water coming into the house can save water, money and damage to your household furnishings.
Water conservation is common sense. To motivate your conservation efforts, just think of water as your hard-earned money going down the drain.
Phumulo Masualle is premier of the Eastern Cape. Follow him on @EC_ Premier and on Facebook at Masincokole.