Stormwater harvesting: Improving water security in South Africa’s urban areas

2017-06-06

By Lloyd Fisher-Jeffes, Kirsty Carden, Neil P. Armitage, and Kevin Winter • 2017

The drought experienced in South Africa in 2016 – one of the worst in decades – has left many urbanised parts of the country with limited access to water, and food production has been affected. If a future water crisis is to be averted, the country needs to conserve current water supplies, reduce its reliance on conventional surface water schemes, and seek alternative sources of water supply. Within urban areas, municipalities must find ways to adapt to, and mitigate the threats from, water insecurity resulting from, inter alia, droughts, climate change and increasing water demand driven by population growth and rising standards of living. Stormwater harvesting (SWH) is one possible alternative water resource that could supplement traditional urban water supplies, as well as simultaneously offer a range of social and environmental benefits. We set out three position statements relating to how SWH can: improve water security and increase resilience to climate change in urban areas; prevent frequent flooding; and provide additional benefits to society. We also identify priority research areas for the future in order to target and support the appropriate uptake of SWH in South Africa, including testing the viability of SWH through the use of real-time control and managed aquifer recharge.

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