top of page

Issues Africa: Southern

Swaziland Water Crisis

By Lindsay Boyce 

Swaziland is a land locked country located in the Southern tip of Africa. It borders the countries of South Africa and Mozambique. It is unique in that it is one of the only true monarchies left in the world. At its head is King Mswati III. Like many countries throughout the world and particularly in Africa, access to water and the availability of water are becoming hard to obtain and often water access are only for those considered to be elite.

In a landlocked country access to water inevitably comes through access to ground water. In Swaziland 3,000 boreholes have been drilled in the country since 1986. However, 40 percent of the population does not have access to clean water and about 90 percent of the community water projects are not functioning. Also, those in charge of these water projects often lack the knowledge needed to keep them running. Many people have to travel long distances and wait for the water to services. Often times near by are pumps for boreholes, however they have broken down and have not been fixed. Making it difficult for many people around the region to get access to clean water.

Another problem seen in Swaziland is that about only 10 percent of Swaziland ground water has been accessed, however 90 percent of the countries citizens depend on that groundwater. Many of which are from rural areas.

One component not usually mentioned is the fact that in Swaziland and many other African countries, foreign investors have a big influence on the country’s economy. In Swaziland there have been threats of investors pulling out of the country due to the water scarcity issues.

Overall, water scarcity issues continue to persist and it will take time and change to combat the issues of water scarcity. The majority of the issues revolve around lack of access and knowledge. Swaziland in particular needs to take the steps to increase education and knowledge about how the water pumps work and how to fix them when they break down. Also, if the pumps are not reliable and or they don’t have the resources to educate their citizens then the government needs to develop an alternative plan that allows access to the precious ground water in which so many Swazi’s depend on. In Swaziland in where the country is one of the only truly remaining monarchies it will be up to the king whether or not he sees prosperity through this otherwise tragic crisis currently unfolding in this Southern African nation.

(c) Sarah White

Lesotho: Abundance of Water, Lack of Access

by Lindsay Boyce

In the Southern tip of Africa rests a little nation called Lesotho; it is a country landlocked by South Africa. In 1966 Lesotho declared independence from the United Kingdom. Through the years there has been some civil unrest, however at this time it is a peaceful nation. It is about the size of Maryland and is made up of highlands, plateaus and hills. Periodic droughts often occur, however the nation relies heavily on the foreign exchange of its water supply in order to stay financially stable.

Economically, Lesotho depends on it’ water resources to create revenue for the country. This is mostly seen through The Highlands Water Project. This project raises millions of dollars each year for this poor country through the sale of water to neighboring countries, particularly South Africa. One of the issues however, is that many of Lesotho’s rural and urban citizens do not have access to safe and clean drinking water and often have to walk for hours just to reach water access points that may or may not be working. Many citizen are aware of what the Highlands Water Project does for their country and are aware that another project; the Metolong Dam Project will make water easily accessible. However, this project is not expected to be finished until 2020. Due to this problem many low land districts of Lesotho have reoccurring serious water shortages. Once this project is finished it is estimated that the water supply will reach 90 percent of the urban district of Maseru and sanitation coverage is expected to increase from 15 percent to 20 percent. Until then, citizen will continue to have to walk miles each day to access clean water, while the majority of their water supply is being sold to South Africa.

Overall, unlike other African nations it is not the lack of water that is posing the problem in Lesotho. It is the lack of knowledge and the technology to create access to the lowland and rural populations. Interestingly enough, water is Lesotho’s largest single source of foreign exchange. Even so, the focus needs to be on the nations citizens. The educations and technology needs to be set in place by the national government in order to finish projects such as the Metolong Dam Project so that citizens will have the necessary access to clean and safe drinking water.

Water in South Africa

by Lindsay Boyce

South Africa is a country located at the Southern Tip of Africa. About twice the size of Texas it is home to 49 million people. This country has been stricken by affects from the long standing apartheid to the devastation that diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB have caused. Now another crisis looms in the distance: Water. As more and more people migrate into cities from rural villages the pressure for the city to meet the water demands is ever increasing.

There are many reasons that attribute to this growing water crisis in South Africa. Climate change has affected water supplies within the region. Rains that usually come and supply the country’s water has come infrequently. For example in Durban the Dams are 20 percent lower than at the start of 2010. Due to this fact cities are looking to impose water restrictions on communities.

Another problem that Durban in particular faces is stolen water. According to one report 35 percent of the cities water is stolen or given out through illegal connections.

Also, preventative measures that were put in place such as the construction of dams in the area have not even started or are still in the process of being built and those structures that are in place now are slowly collapsing. Those in rural areas still lack access to water. One report stated that in 2008 about 5 million people lack access to water and 15 million lack access to basic sanitation. This number has improved greatly since the end of apartheid in 1994, however these numbers are still too high and not one person should ever lack access to the most basic necessity of life, which is water.

Interestingly enough South Africa boast one of the most clean water systems in the world, however due to the lack of sanitation and access in the country’s rural communities the threat of water borne disease is steadily increasing. The Vaal River, the largest river in South Africa and popular tourist destination is becoming increasingly contaminated with fecal material due to the lack of sanitation supplies. It is so bad that the local water agency Rand Water issued a statement that contact with the river may lead to serious infection. Wildlife is also being affected from the raw sewage run off. A court-ordered mandate was issued to remove 20 tons of dead fish from the river after a local NGO SAVE (Save the Vaal River Environment) took the Emfuelni munincipilty to court for leaking raw sewage into the river. They blamed the reason for dumping sewage in the river on old pipes.

Overall, infrastructure is lacking, whether or not it is old pipes or ignorance the South Africa water crisis is here and affecting millions. There has been a backlog in services since the end of apartheid and that needs to change. The national and local governments of South Africa need to do a better job of offering services to their people. Supplies need to be given to those most in need. By taking care of the rural population the government will be helping the cities, because it is these rural communities where the damage to the water supply is beginning due to lack of access to sanitation supplies and clean water education.

bottom of page