New paradigm of abundance

By Dr Anthony Turton

Anthony Turton, professor, Centre for Environmental Management, University of Free State comments briefly on the present state of the water sector, and offers solutions going forward.

abundant waterIt is time to relook the water paradigm, moving from scarcity to abundance.
Image credit: Woobleweb

The origin of our water resource management planning can be traced back to two books written by JC Brown in 1875 entitled Hydrology of South Africa; or Details of the Former Hydrographic Conditions of the Cape of Good Hope, and causes of its Present Aridity, with Suggestions of Appropriate Remedies for this Aridity. In 1877 he published Water Supply of South Africa and the Facilitation for the Storage of It. In 1886 Thomas Bain published Water-finding, Dam-making, River Utilization, Irrigation. These collectively created the ‘Paradigm of Scarcity’ that managed water as a stock, and therefore finite.

Anthony turton

Professor, Centre for Environmental Management, University of Free State.
Image credit: Antony Turton

The last phase of the Paradigm of Scarcity is about squeezing as much water as possible from a dwindling resource, under the banner of water conservation/demand management (WC/DM). The Cape Town water crisis has taken that paradigm as far as it can and political pushback from citizens could potentially become a revolt against government. Investor confidence is long gone and with that the capacity to create jobs.

We now need to create the ‘New Paradigm of Abundance’ where water is managed as a flux, and therefore infinitely renewable. To do this we need policy certainty to attract technology and capital into the water sector. This new paradigm stands on three legs:

  • Recovery of water from waste.
  • Removal of salt where appropriate (mine water inland and sea water at the coast).
  • Conjunctive use of groundwater providing strategic storage in aquifers where geological conditions prevail.

We now need to create the ‘New Paradigm of Abundance’ where water is managed as a flux, and therefore infinitely renewable.

This will create a ‘dual stream reticulation economy’ where water of different quality and price is used for different purposes at different times and in different places. This will be linked to a broader beneficiation strategy. If implemented this can become the foundation of economic revival across the entire country.

Both capital and technology are available in abundance, so all that’s needed is political will.  











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