South Africa’s $40 Billion Water Gap Threatens Economy

24 October 2012

Bloomberg - Concrete patches on the canals snaking through Nico Greeff’s vineyards betray constant repairs to an outmoded irrigation system that’s the lifeblood of farming in South Africa’s arid west.

“The water infrastructure is about 60 years old and the lifespan of a surfaced canal is about 40 years,” Greeff, 55, said on his farm near Vredendal, north of Cape Town. “Sometimes there are breakages on the canal system, which interrupts supplies. We can have a lot of damage to our crops.”

South Africa’s biggest individual consumer of fresh water is Eskom, which utilized between 2 percent and 3 percent in the process of producing more than 95 percent of the country’s power. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg

Crumbling canals, dams and pipelines and a lack of funds to expand, replace and maintain them threatens to stymie economic growth and efforts to tackle a 25 percent unemployment rate in Africa’s biggest economy.

Water infrastructure requires investment of 670 billion rand ($76 billion) over the next decade, the Department of Water Affairs said in an Aug. 17 study. That’s almost double the available funding, leaving a gap of 338 billion rand. The report says businesses need to anticipate supply disruptions, higher bills and more regulation in a country that gets less rain than neighbors Namibia and Botswana, famed for their deserts.

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Categories: Water, Energy

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