Climate Change and Water
The Western Cape is a water-scarce region. This situation will be further impacted by climate change which, in the Western Cape, is projected to lead to:
- Decreased average rainfall
- A change in seasonality, location and intensity of rainfall
- Increased temperatures
- Increased wind speeds
- Increased wild fires
Our province is already experiencing more frequent and severe weather events such as flooding, increased wind speeds, increased temperatures, less cold frost days, and more fires. These altered climatic conditions, impacting on water infrastructure by disenabling effective infiltration to recharge groundwater, damaging infrastructure, increasing evaporation, and reducing the quality of the water resources. There are no readily available surface water supply augmentation options beyond existing dams and rivers. Annual rainfall has been decreasing over the last few years. It is projected that rainfall in the Western Cape is likely to decrease by 30% by 2050.
Water security is affected by climate change in three general ways: changes in annual rainfall, increased runoff which affects quality of water in streams and rivers and increases in sea level. Climate change increases pressure on water resources through increased temperature and associated evaporation likely accelerated by the high wind speeds and related increases in frequency of utmost weather events. Climate change and climate variability also pose a variety of risks to all water infrastructure in the water service value chain - operating beyond the design capacity of the water systems, lack of good water governance and age are some of the factors that add strain to the water infrastructure. The major concern is what strategies can be adopted to mitigate climate challenges.
The recent drought demonstrated that reducing the risk of such a crisis and effective response will be determined by a number of factors that include availability of finance, human capital, capable institutional resources as well as new forms of innovative governance systems. It is also essential to diversify water sources and that responsible authorities become smarter about capturing rainfall, treating and storing storm water, and reusing treated water and effluent for a variety of purposes. The drought also elevated the need for responsible authorities to have reliable data which should inform decision making and that informed citizens across the spectrum (commercial and industrial, agriculture, residential) are willing to cooperate and contribute positively to proposed water saving efforts.
The Western Cape Government, together with key partners, is working closely with businesses to improve their water resilience and that of the Western Cape economy. This work is coordinated under the Economic Security Workstream, which falls under the activated provincial disaster centre. The workstream comprises of partners from the Western Cape Government, GreenCape, the City of Cape Town, Wesgro, the Economic Development Partnership, as well as several business associations, and other key stakeholders.
The goal of the workstream is to reduce business risk and build the water sector to support water resilience in the Western Cape economy, with the following objectives to reduce water consumption, build water sector of the Province, and to increase businesses' own water supply augmentation.
To meet the above objectives, several strategies have been developed, including:
- Hosting and participating in engagements with businesses and support dialogues between businesses and local municipalities
- Supporting, coordinating and distributing drought communications materials to businesses
- Providing strategic and technical support to businesses
- Providing business support to develop the water sector
- Collating and analysing information on business interventions, water savings and/ or own supplies and economic impacts
For more information on building economic water resilience, contact us via email at 110Green@westerncape.gov.za