Water expert and environmental adviser Dr Anthony Turton and infrastructure development company Accentuate CEO Fred Platt have proposed that a national war room be established to begin implementing strategic steps that are required to deal with South Africa’s mounting water scarcity challenges.
Both stressed the value of water as an economic enabler and said that, without water, civilisations diminish and eventually disappear; likening such a situation to that which happened to the ancient civilisation of the Mayans of northern central America.
The Mayans built their civilisation around water and when it disappeared, so did the civilisation.
Platt pointed out that a “strategic decision” needed to be made soon at a national level to deal with the security of South Africa’s water resources before other areas were negatively impacted on by drought and water availability issues.
“This is why we are calling for a war room. The provision of water should be beyond politics.”
In this regard, Platt has sent a letter to the office of African National Congress president and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, to suggest the establishment of a war room.
He added that water could be the ultimate rallying point for the country. “It has the ability to unite us, but it also has the ability to divide us, which is what is happening today [in reference to the situation in Cape Town].”
Regarding the water scarcity in Cape Town, Turton said the situation was analogous to the Titanic hitting the iceberg. “What we are seeing right now is the Titanic striking the iceberg, but it is still floating. Day zero is when the Titanic sinks.”
He stressed that action needed to be taken now. “We have to be serious about the matter now; we need to focus on how we got here and how to get out of it.”
Platt, meanwhile, stated that the true value of water had not been fully understood and appreciated until recently as a result of the diminishing resource in Cape Town.
“Water is not a commodity to take, use and dispose of,” he emphasised, adding that the national and municipal focus in terms of handling water sources needs to dramatically shift to reclaiming and reusing water.
Platt cited examples of other countries, such as Israel and Australia, that have gone to great lengths to ensure wastewater is recycled and returned into the reticulation system.
He added that South Africa could learn a lot from such countries and should start developing and implementing such strategies as a matter of urgency.