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Total water withdrawal in South Africa was estimated at 12 496 million m³ in 2000, with irrigation accounting for 62 percent. The total registered water use volume in 2013 amounts to 17 300 million m³ in the Department of Water Affairs' database WARMS–Water Authorization and Registration Management System–reaching the 2025 high estimate water requirement. However, there is no data concerning the actual use of water. It is estimated between 15 000 and 16 000 million m³ in 2013 (Table 5). Irrigation is still the most important water user with 60 percent of water withdrawn, while livestock and nature conservation uses 2.5 percent. Municipalities are second with 24 and 3 percent respectively in urban and rural areas. Industries use the remaining, including 3.5 percent for mining and 4 percent of power generation (DWA, 2013c).
Total groundwater withdrawal was estimated at 1 770 million m³ in 2010, of which 64 percent for irrigation (CSIR, 2010). Although its volume is limited at national level, groundwater is extensively used in rural and arid areas (Figure 2).
The total produced municipal wastewater volume amounts to 3 542 million m³ in 2009, of which 54 percent is treated. However, half of the treatment plants, especially the smaller ones, do not meet the effluent standards, resulting in the quality of surface water being particular poor in urban areas (OECD, 2013).
Small desalination plants (less 0.5 million m³/year) have been installed in Knysna, Bitou, Sedgefield, Cannon Rocks and Boknes (DWA, 2010). Their cumulative capacity in 1990 was 18 million m³/year. Opened in 2011, Mossel Bay is the largest desalination plant in the country with a capacity of 5.5 million m³/year.
Development and use of water resources differ widely between the northern arid parts of the country, where both surface water and groundwater resources are nearly fully developed and utilized, while in the well-watered south-eastern regions of the country significant undeveloped and little-used resources exist.