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South Africa

Prospects for agricultural water management

Demand for water in South Africa is estimated at 17 700 million m│ in 2030, with no difference in the sector repartition compared to the actual withdrawal: 8 400 million m│ for agriculture, 3 300 million m│ for industry and 6 000 million m│ for municipalities (Boccaletti, Stuchtey and van Olst, 2010).

In the Water for Growth and Development Framework 2009, DAFF proposes an additional 600 000 ha of land under irrigation including rehabilitation of existing irrigation schemes and the revival of food plots in the former homelands schemes and enhanced use of 70 000 ha of underutilized irrigation land in government schemes. This addition is not supposed to demand extra water but to use the water saved by reducing water losses and improving irrigation efficiency, as well as water already allocated to agriculture but not used until now (DWAF, 2009). However, a more recent survey indicates that only an additional 80 000 ha could be developed for irrigation based on surface water availability in the high rainfall areas along the east coast. Additional development would require dam building in these areas but would be costly. A study recently looked at the feasibility of a dam on the Mzimvubu river, one of the last Ĺpristine' and not developed river in the southeast. Implementation of Phase 2 of the LHWP is expected to deliver additional water to Gauteng by 2020 (DWA, 2013).

Recommendation for the improvement of irrigation efficiency includes (DWAF, 2009):

  • For commercial irrigation: irrigation scheduling, measurement of the quantity of water applied, change in technology.
  • For household and community irrigation: revitalization of food plots in homeland irrigation schemes and support from the DAFF for this miniature irrigation including allocation of water, water harvesting and storage, water efficient technology such as clay pot.
  • For groundwater irrigation: development of groundwater for small-scale irrigation and food plots, in particular in isolated communities.

Finally, the government has set a target of producing desalinated water up to 2 percent in 2025, 3 percent in 2040 and 7 to 10 percent of all water withdrawals in the even longer term, promoting this technology in the coastal cities. Increase of the share of groundwater in the water withdrawal as well as increased use of water either treated wastewater or drainage water, are also planned in order to reduce the dependence on surface water.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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