South Africa tackles water shortages
South Africa faces a precarious fresh water situation, which has seen major cities suffer from severe supply restrictions and limitations on use in recent years. Most notably, Western Cape province experienced severe drought in 2017-18, which seriously threatened water supplies for households and businesses located in the province and reduced electricity supplies from hydroelectric facilities. Indeed, Cape Town almost became the first major city worldwide to run out of potable water and the so-called ‘Day Zero’ event was narrowly avoided. To address the issue of water scarcity, the South African government is channeling public funds into major public works projects and attempting to encourage more private sector investment in water and sanitation services. The over-riding aim is to improve current supplies to meet expected fast-growing future demand and build resilience to adverse weather conditions and climate change. In addition to this, water conservation among users and the use of new technology are an increasingly important part of water sector policy. Construction of the second phase of the long-delayed Lesotho Highlands Water Project is expected to get under way in 2019, which could significantly ease water supply issues in Gauteng province. Crucially, a joint development contract was awarded to firms from South Africa and Lesotho in late 2018, following years of political wrangling and negotiations.