Annual Forum Papers

Is water shedding next?

  • Year: 2008
  • Organisation: University of Pretoria
  • Author(s): James Blignaut;Jan van Heerden
  • Countries and Regions: South Africa

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, or to shed load. This is a condition unknown to South Africa since the country 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 load-shedding crisis by being pro-active? 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 business as usual will indeed dump the country into a situation where water shedding will be inevitable.

Unlike electricity, however, water security is much more serious from a livelihoods and health perspective since there are no substitutes for it. The need for pro-active measures is therefore essential.