National Water Week - 2006
22-May-2009 12:52 PM  
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Responsibility for clean safe water

According to the Constitution of South Africa everyone has the right to have access to water, i.e. enough water to live. Part of our right to life, is the right to have water. But individuals or groups in our country cannot own water. Our democratic government is in charge of our country's water resources. Government has to ensure that there is clean water for all of us - now and for future generations.

Polluting water reduces its quality and increases the cost to purify it. The cost of providing clean water is directly linked to the processes that water has to go through in order for it to be safe and clean. To keep down the cost of providing clean water, we all need to act responsibly and contribute towards keeping our resources clean.

The availability of water

South Africa is a water-scarce country and the natural availability of water across our country is uneven. Our average rainfall per year is 450mm, which is lower than the world's average of 860mm per year. 

Although some years it rains more than other years, we are still considered a water-scarce country. Therefore we need to do everything possible to save and conserve water.

Ways to use less water in the home

  • Showering could use up to 20 litres of water per minute.
  • If you prefer to bath don’t make it as full. Taking a bath could use between 80 and 150 litres of water.
  • Every time you flush the toilet, 12 litres of water is used. Reducing the toilet flush volume alone can save 20% of total water consumption. Putting a 2-litre bottle, filled with water and a little sand to add weight, into the cistern, can do this.
  • Fix a leaking toilet. It can waste up to 100 000 litres of water in one year.
  • Kettles should be filled with just enough water for your needs. This will reduce your electricity bill too.
  • A 100-Watt light bulb, left on for 12 hours, uses almost 3 litres of water. This is the amount of water required to generate 100 Watt of electricity for 12 hours.
  • Reduce the amount of water you use per day: re-use water where possible.

Ways to use less water in the garden

  • Always water your plants during the early morning hours or in the evening, between 10:00 and 15:00. You can lose up to 90% of water to evaporation.
  • Focus on indigenous and non-invasive alien plants with low water demands.
  • Roof water can also be profitably stored in tanks, for watering gardens.
  • Use “grey water” - used water from baths, washing machines and other safe sources - to water your garden
  • Using a garden hose could use as much as 30 litres of water per minute.

Safe water for drinking

If water is from an unreliable source, such as a borehole, first filter the water through a clean cloth into a clean container. Then add one
teaspoon of bleach for 20 to 25 litres of water.

Mix it well and let it stand for half an hour. Or boil the water and let it bubble for one minute to make sure it is clean and safe.

Safe water can easily get dirty, so keep it covered and clean. It is important not to touch the water with your hands, as this may cause the spreading of germs. Rather pour or scoop from the container when you need water for drinking or cooking.


Germs from human waste (faeces) cause diarrhoeal diseases, including cholera.

Wash your hands (with soap or ash and safe water) before you eat or prepare food, or after you have been to the toilet.

If you get sick with diarrhoea (runny tummy) or start vomiting, prepare this mixture and drink it regularly. Do not forget to go to your clinic for help:

  • Take 1 litre of safe water
  • Add 8 teaspoons of sugar
  • Add half a teaspoon of salt 
  • Mix well and drink a glass of it every hour.

Why is handwashing so important?

  • Around four billion cases of diarrhoea are recorded worldwide each year.
  • Diarrhoeal diseases claim the lives of nearly two million children every year.
  • Over 1, 5 million cases of diarrhoea, in children under five, are recorded in South Africa each year.
  • Over 100 children may die daily from diarrhoeal diseases in South Africa.
  • Human waste (faeces) is the source of most diarrhoeal pathogens or germs. 
  • One gram of faeces can contain 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1000 parasite cysts and 100 worm eggs.
  • Studies also show that convenient access to safe water alone can only reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases by up to 15%.
  • Adequate sanitation can reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases by up to 40%.
  • Handwashing with soap can reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases by 42-46%.
  • Worldwide, handwashing with soap could save a million lives each year.

Important tips for water safety

  • Never go swimming alone. Adult permission and supervision is very important.
  • Never dive into a river, lake or dam if you have not tested the depth first.
  • Before swimming in a river, always make sure that there are no crocodiles or hippos in the water or around.
  • Be aware of underwater obstacles such as rocks and branches of trees.
  • Protect South Africa’s water resources - do not throw rubbish in the water.

People who access dams, rivers and lakes should be able to help themselves in water. The Department in partnership with Swimming South Africa (SSA), supports the Rural Splash Programme.

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