Is Water Shedding Next?
James Blignaut and Jan van Heerden
July 22, 2009
South Africa is in the grip of an electricity crisis marked by a euphemism known as ìload
sheddingî. 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 for various
periods of time, or to shed load. This is a condition previously unknown to South Africa since
the country has 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 water shedding crisis by being proactive? In this paper we address
this issue by applying a Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model using an integrated
database comprising South Africaís Social Accounting Matrix (SAM) and sectoral water use
balances. We refer to AsgiSA, the governmentsíAccelerated and Shared Growth Initiative in
South Africa, and conclude that continuing business as usual will indeed lead to a situation
where water shedding will be inevitable.
Unlike electricity, however, water security is much more serious from livelihood, health and
socio-economic development perspectives since there are no substitutes for it, although its influ-
ence is not directly and immediately visible. This delayed effect can create a degree of comfort
and ill-founded complacency leading to non-action, whereas there is an urgent need for proactive measures.