Water Wednesday: How much water does the average South African consume?

This is according to statements made by former Johannesburg mayor and president of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) Parks Tau during a speech. Tau noted that the country’s water consumption far exceeded international benchmarks and that the average water consumption in South Africa is 235 litres per capita per day compared to a world average of 185.

SALGA official William Moraka told Africa Check that Tau’s figures were sourced from the International Benchmarking Network’s (IBNET) 2010 data as well as a 2017 benchmarking study from the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Certain parts of the country are currently experiencing strict water restrictions, so Africa Check studied the data and these were their findings:

  1. The sources Moraka cited showed that South Africa’s total water consumption for 2010 was listed at 172.14 litres per person per day. Average residential consumption was 155.1 litres per person per day.
  2. Most recent data shows that South Africa had an average total water consumption of 183.89 litres per person per day in 2014. Average residential consumption was 111.79 litres per person per day. These were both much lower than the 235 litres Tau mentioned in his speech.
  3. The other source quoted by Moroka was a department of water and sanitation study from 2017. It quoted a 2012 Water Research Commission report which estimated South Africa’s water consumption at 235 litres per person per day.
  4. The study considered 132 municipalities of a possible 237 from all nine provinces to put together the average per person. It used a combination of water balance data provided by the municipalities together with self-assessment scorecards.
  5. The department of water and sanitation’s more recent figures estimated the country’s per person consumption at 233 litres per day in 2015/16.
  6. Gauteng had the highest consumption at 305 litres per person per day, while Limpopo averaged the lowest at 182 litres.

Here are the figures presented:

Province Consumption (litres/person/day)

  • Eastern Cape 200
  • Free State 209
  • Gauteng 305
  • Limpopo 182
  • KwaZulu Natal 225
  • North West 186
  • Northern Cape 238
  • Western Cape 201
  • Mpumalanga 205
  • National 233

IBNET’s data doesn’t necessarily reflect all local government areas in the country and therefore may not represent the country average so the figures cannot be proven.

Meanwhile the Department of Water and Sanitation has outlined the drought crisis in the Western Cape:

Here is your weekly dam update:

  • The Vaal River System consisting of 14 dams serving mainly Gauteng Sasol and Eskom is at 103.4%.
  • The Cape Town Dams System consisting of six dams serving mainly City of Cape Town this week is at 16.7%.
  • The KwaZulu-Natal Dam System is at 64.9 % this week while Eastern Cape Dam System sits at 69%.

Here are the latest dam percentages throughout the country:

For a more in depth rainfall update, visit WeatherSA or click here. For more information on the water storage levels across the country, visit the DWS site. For a comprehensive drought status report from the Department of Water and Sanitation, click here.

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