Is Water Shedding Next?

South Africa is in the grip of an electricity crisis marked by a euphemism known as “load shedding”. The demand for electricity has grown to the point that the supply reserve margin is often under threat, necessitating the electricity supplier to cut supply to some areas for various periods of time, or to shed load. This is a condition previously unknown to South Africa since the country has enjoyed electricity security from the mid-1950s. Are we, however, heading in the same direction when considering water? Is water shedding inevitable? We ask these questions since South Africa is a country classified has having chronic water shortages, a condition exacerbated by climate change and the rapidly increasing demand for water. Can we avert a water shedding crisis by being proactive? In this paper we address this issue by applying a Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model using an integrated database comprising South Africa’s Social Accounting Matrix (SAM) and sectoral water use balances. We refer to AsgiSA, the governments’ Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative in South Africa, and conclude that continuing business as usual will indeed lead to a situation where water shedding will be inevitable. Unlike electricity, however, water security is much more serious from livelihood, health and socio-economic development perspectives since there are no substitutes for it, although its influence is not directly and immediately visible. This delayed effect can create a degree of comfort and ill-founded complacency leading to non-action, whereas there is an urgent need for proactive measures.

Working Paper 141
1 July 2009
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2009, Water SA
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