The theme for this year’s International Water Day is “Leave no one behind.” The campaign aims to focus on the importance of water and water conservation.
There are many misconceptions about the use of water in Africa, and Africa Check looked at some surprising facts to raise awareness on World Water Day.
No access to clean water
Approximately 319 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t have access to a hygienic water point (domestic faucet or a fitted fountain), according to data collected during 2018.
The World Health Organization confirmed that figure, which works out to about 48% of Africa’s population. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, adds:
“Having access to safe water, sanitation and home hygiene should not be a privilege reserved exclusively for urban rich people. These are basic services for human health, and it is the responsibility of all countries to ensure that everyone can access them.”
— EuropeAid (@europeaid) March 22, 2019
Nigeria’s tap water isn’t safe
According to 2017 survey, approximately “90.8% of Nigerians’ drinking water contained some level of E coli bacteria,” and only 3.7% of the population had access to clean water.
In 2018, Nigeria revised the standards for drinking water quality water. The new requirements include the smell and taste of water, as well as the limits of chemicals allowed in water.
South Africa’s high water consumption
Very high. Parks Tau claimed in at the 2018 SONA address that South Africa’s water consumption far exceeded international benchmarks, and his claim checks out.
South African Local Government Association (SALGA) official William Moraka confirmed that SA’s total water consumption per day was about 172.14 litres in 2010. That figure increased to 233 litres by 2015/2016.
Gauteng residents use about 305 litres per person per day, while the Northern Cape followed with 238 litres and KwaZulu Natal with 225 litres.
Limpopo and North West residents are setting the example at 182 and 186 litres per person per day, respectively.
In 2018, Cape Town Water Crisis Coalition’s Facebook page urged residents to steer clear of bottled water as it “takes 11 litres of water to produce 1litre of bottled water.”
The claim was investigated, and Kirsty Carden told Africa Check that the it “really depends on the process that is used to make sure that the water is safe to drink.”
“If water is bottled straight from the source then very little extra water would be used. But if water needs to be treated through processes like reverse osmosis, deionisation or ultrafiltration, the quantity of water required increases.”
Less water in South Africa
It may sound strange, but South Africans have less per person than residents in Botswana and Namibia.
For every person in South Africa, the country had 822.2 m³ of fresh water available at last count, compared to 1 061 m³ per resident of Botswana and 2 505 m³ for each resident of Namibia. As a point of reference, 2 505 m³ is about the volume of an Olympic size swimming pool.
But we aren’t the “driest country in the world
Surprisingly, no. Even though the Department of Water and Sanitation made the claim in 2015, South Africa ranked 39th driest out of 182 countries.
A survey of water stress – which estimates how much demand is placed on a country’s water supply – put South Africa 65th of 180 countries in 2013.
Tips for saving water
There are many ways to save water, and even though these efforts seem small, it makes a difference because every drop counts.
- Close the tap while brushing your teeth, don’t keep the water running.
- Only do your laundry when you have enough close for a full load.
- Shower instead of taking a bath, if possible, as one 5 minute bath uses approximately 35 litres of water.
- Trap rainwater by installing Rain Water Harvesting systems in your house.
- Use that water for gardening or washing.
- Fix leaking taps and toilets, and install aerating faucets.
- Put a brick or bottle filled with water in your toilet cistern to prevent it from filling up all the way.
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