Rise in Demand, Coupled with Droughts and Floods, Strains Available Water Resources in South Africa

Rating B (Moderately Effective)

Climate change will likely cause major water uncertainty in most of South Africa.  With increased drying and flooding, there have been localized effects in regions with small water resource management systems, such as Cape Town. Climate change has influenced annual rainfall, increased runoff, and sea levels. The different climatic conditions, such as flooding, increased temperature, high wind speeds, increased fires, and fewer cold days, have affected water infiltration into the ground, caused increased evaporation, damaged infrastructure, and reduced the water quality in reservoirs.

South Africa falls under arid and semi-arid climate conditions. Less than 9% of the annual rainfall goes into the rivers, and 5% infiltrates into the ground to recharge the aquifers. It is reported that there is a decrease in stream flow by 35% and 20% in the Limpopo and Okavango catchments. These water resources pass through different transboundary basins, ruggedly distributed across the country and seasonally. The rise in water demand coupled with droughts and floods has caused a major problem in available water resources. Climate change effects have led to less water being available for agriculture and food production in most parts of South Africa.

The Water and Sanitation Sector Policy on Climate Change was initiated in October 2015 to work under the climate change adaptation agenda in order to plan and develop adaptation strategies for water resources. The National Climate Change Response White Paper informs the policy. The focus of the policy is to highlight and strengthen the National Climate Change Response White Paper to provide a framework for the implementation of the Climate Change Response Strategy for the water and sanitation sector, to strengthen the development, implementation, and enforcement of regulations for climate change, and to highlight the policy principles of the water and sanitation sector with regards to climate change. The Water and Sanitation Sector Policy on Climate Change strives to increase the protection, conservation, and management of available water resources against climate change impacts. It also provides legislation policies that promote climate change adaptation and resilience strategies in the water resources sector.


This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard South Africa Country Manager Rugare Zhou.


Learn More References

  1. https://www.westerncape.gov.za/110green/water/climate-change-and-water#:~:text=Water%20security%20is%20affected%20by,and%20increases%20in%20sea%20level.
  2. Climate Risk Profile: South Africa (2021): The World Bank Group.
  3. Water and Sanitation Sector Policy on Climate Change 2017
  4. https://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/blogs/51757/water-crisis-in-south-africa/

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