Ah, but your land is dry

According to South Africa’s Water Research Commission, by 2025 around 600-million people in sub-Saharan Africa will have insufficient water to meet their basic survival needs.

To ensure that South Africa is not part of this particularly startling statistic, the government has drawn up a formal set of guidelines that have been put in place to protect the future of our water.

Known collectively as the “Reserve”, these guidelines are designed to ensure that every South African has his or her basic needs met and a safe and healthy environment, rights which the country’s Constitution enshrines.

The sustainability of the Reserve is hampered by South Africa’s climate. By world standards South Africa is classed as a dryland.

The definition of a dryland is a semi-arid region that receives between 200mm and 500mm of rain each year.


The country’s average annual rainfall is 475mm. Hence, South Africa is officially “dry”.

In fact, only a narrow band in the far east of South Africa along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, which has rainfall in excess of 500mm a year, is classed as humid.

And, because South Africa is sunny, its water resources are constantly under pressure with in the region of 90% of rainfall in any one particular area running the risk of being evaporated.

In Gauteng, for example, the amount of water lost to evaporation is double the amount of rainfall.

The country’s geography and topography also play a major role in making it aquatically challenged.

Because this is an old, largely flattened land, with few depressions, there are not many naturally occurring lakes in which water can build up.

Although South Africa has a good few mountain ranges, only a handful of these give rise to perennially flowing rivers.

The country’s rainfall is seasonal, meaning that it has long months with no rainfall at all in certain areas. All of which adds up to the fact that water is perhaps the most precious resource. And the most taken for granted.

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Sharon Van Wyk
Guest Author

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