In an article discussing the affects of water scarcity on a nation’s economy, Global Risk Insights reveals that the pinch is felt in more than one sector. Agriculture is understandably one of the worst-hit industries, but water scarcity has negative implications for the very growth of a country’s economy – something crucial for the continuation of an ever-growing population. This article looks at who uses the most water, how water scarcity affects the greater South African economy, and how we can solve the South African water crisis:
- The industries that suck most of SA’s water are the agricultural, mining and afforestation
- Water scarcity affects SA’s economic growth, as well as the success of key economic contributors
- By utilising repurposed water and water capture solutions, industries can reduce their dependence on SA’s water stores
Our Water Intensive Industries
South Africa’s biggest water user is the agriculture sector. Irrigation soaks up 59% of South Africa’s water, sprinkling and spraying it over thousands of hectares of budding crops destined for stores the world over.
Mining and Bulk Industry
While urban and rural use of water comes in at second on businesstech.co.za‘s water usage list (25%), third is the mining and bulk industry sectors – where water use is operationally non-negotiable.
Ironically, planting more trees can sometimes be a bad thing. As far as the impact on SA’s water use is concerned, afforestation takes 3.7% of water stores annually. Luckily, as our dependence on paper declines, so to should this percentage.
Coming in at 2.2% of water use in South Africa is the power generation sector. Powering our lamps, televisions and smartphone chargers takes a lot of hard work – and more water than you’d think.
How Water Shortage Affects Big Industry
Whether farming sheep and cattle, or fruits and vegetables, water is used at many a step in the cultivation process. The less water farms have to irrigate, the less crops they can irrigate, which affects their export numbers and ultimately their bottom line.
Mining and bulk industrial processes feel the affects of water shortage too, as scarecity leads to an increase in overheads – while operations are often obstructed due to water shortage, affecting overall productivity.
In the manufacturing sector, water restrictions directly affect productivity by capping output. The food industry of Cape Town is currently in full-blown crisis, as establishments are shutting their doors due to lack of water.
On a positive note, water crises present unique opportunities for advancement. As we become more and more dependent on alternative water sources, these technologies (desalienation here plants, water storage tanks, greywater harvesting, etc.) are getting better, and becoming more accessible.
What Water Scarcity Means for South Africa
The South African top three GDP contributors are, in order of importance, agriculture (including forestry), mining, and manufacturing. Water shortage affects industry productivity, reducing outputs and affecting the economy through smaller GDP contributions.
Tourism accounts for around 2.9% of South Africa’s GDP, and the Cape Town water crisis has revealed just how water shortages can affect a destination’s appeal – both for tourists and investors. The fewer the tourists, the less foreign currencies are being exchanged and spent in SA’s most popular tourist destinations.
The property and urban development markets have taken a serious knock in recent years, with fewer investors willing to inject capital into areas where basic human needs (like access to clean water) aren’t being met.
In a nutshell, water scarcity negatively affects the South African economy across many sectors – and the longer the elephant in the room is ignored, the sooner it’ll sit on us.
How we can Improve the Water Situation
So, we’ve taken a look at which South African industries use the most water, as well as how water scarcity affects them (and the greater South African economy). The outlook is bleak, but by no means critical.
Alternative water sources are already being effectively utilised across many of the industrial spheres mentioned above. Industrial greywater reporposing solutions and desalienation plants are turning the tide on this South African water crisis in a meaningful way.
By capturing rainwater wherever possible, through the use of water storage tanks, we can make best use of a precious commodity that literally falls from the sky and into our laps.
Let’s save our South Africa, one drop at a time…