Rivers, the country's main source of water, are fed by less than 470 mm of rain a year, compared with a world average of 857 mm. Sixty-five percent of the land area gets rain than the minimum required for successful dry-land farming, and 21 per cent less than 200 mm a year. South African rivers carry about 53500 million kl a year.

The latest figures show that 52,42 percent of the water available in South Africa is used for agricultural irrigation and stock watering , 12 percent for municipal and domestic purposes, 7,6 percent by industry, 2,7 percent by mining and 2,3 percent for power-generation. Of the remainder, one per cent is used for nature conservation, 7,51 percent is drained by plantations before reaching the rivers and 14,5 per cent is allocated for ecological uses, such as maintaining estuaries.

Water for all

The fundamental principle underlying the water resources policy of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) is to make water available to all South Africans. From 13 to 16 million people do not have access to clean drinking water and less than half of the rural population has a safe and accessible water supply. The RDP is aimed at establishing a national water and sanitation programme to provide all households with a clean, safe water supply and healthy living conditions.

A White Paper on Water Supply and Sanitation, released by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry in November 1994, states that the annual budget of the department would have to increase from R1600 million to R2800 million a year to provide basic services to citizens in the next 7 years.

Drainage and hydrology

In South Africa, with its abundant sunshine and high evaporation rate, only 9 percent of the rainfall returns to the sea via rivers, compared with 31 percent worldwide. The annual run-off of all South African rivers is 53500 million m3.

The country lies in a drought belt. Rainfall is seasonal and influenced by the topography. The slopes of the eastern plateau, which covers 13 per cent of its surface area, account for 43 per cent of the total run-off. The Orange River System, which drains almost the entire plateau - 48 percent of the total land area - accounts for only 22,5 percent (about 12060 million m3) of the total amount run-off to the sea. Perennial rivers are found over merely one-quarter of the land area.

Major dams

Major dams are the Gariep with a capacity in million m3 of 5952, the Vanderkloof (3237), the Sterkfontein (2656), the Vaal (2529), the Pongolapoort (2492), and the Bloemhof (1273).

The following dams were renamed in 1995 to reflect the new political order in the country; the former Braam Raubenheimer Dam is now called the Kwena Dam, the Fanie Botha Dam has changed to the Tsaneen Dam, the Hendrik Verwoerd to the Gariep, the Paul Sauer to the Kouga and the PK le Roux to the Vanderkloof.

Lakes and pans

Lake Fundudzi in the Soutpansberg in the Northern Province is the only true inland lake. coastal lakes are found at Wilderness on the south coast and at St. Lucia, Sibayi and Kosi Bay on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Numerous pans occur in a wide belt from the northern Cape through the western Free State to the North-West.

Groundwater resources

More then 70 percent of South Africa's water users are dependent on groundwater, and 13 percent of all the water used in the country is groundwater. About 5400 million m3 a year can be developed economically.

Water affairs

The RDP has tasked the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry with the integrated management of the national water resources for the benefit of the whole nation. In keeping with the RDP principles, the department regards it as essential that resources and the responsibility for their development be given to the rural people, supported by national and regional policy.

The department has announced the establishment of a new decision - the Rural Water and Sanitation Division - to take charge of policy and planning, liaison, monitoring resources, research and training, technical support, institutional support, and critical intervention.

Most of the 12 planned water supply schemes are concentrated in the Northern Province and Mpumalanga. About R60 million will be spent on projects for 1994/95, R135,4 million in 1995/96, and R87,8 million thereafter. During the 5-year implementation of the RDP, the department will focus on rural projects.

In October 1994 an amount of R3 million was allocated for emergency water supply in drought-stricken areas in the Northern Province. Relief was brought by the drilling and equipment of bore-holes, maintenance of, and repairs to existing infrastructure and the carting of water.

The department co-operates with local and statutory authorities, water boards and municipalities in the design, construction and financing of projects to meet the water demands of these authorities. The department manages, operates and maintains state irrigation and regional water-supply projects.

The Water-Amendment Act, 1991 (Act 16 of 1991) does not inhibit the development of private water-supply projects, but abstraction of water from public streams in government-controlled areas is subject to approval by the Minister.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1993 (Act 200 of 1993), retains water and forestry as areas of national legislative and administrative competence. However, sustainable rural water and sanitation development is only possible at local level. To ensure an equitable distribution and management of resources, provincial water liaison committees will be established for each province.

Marine fisheries

Marine resources along the 3000 km South African coastline sustain a fishing industry which employs about 28000 people. A total of 608000 t live weight of fish, shell-fish, seaweed and guano were harvested in 1993, with an estimated output of R1190 million.

The Government follows a strict conservation policy based on scientific research conducted by the Sea Fisheries Research Institute of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and enforced by marine conservation inspectors.

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) sets compulsory standards for the seafood processing industry, while the Fishing Industry Research Institute does research on processing technology. The Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) gives financial aid to fishermen and smaller entrepreneurs.

The Western Cape Provincial Administration supervises harbour facilities and provides marine conservation inspectors at 13 proclaimed fishing harbours. Most harbours are controlled by Portnet.

In 1994 the commercial fishing fleet consisted of 3969 vessels, while 2911 line-fishing vessels were plying their trade.

Multi-species shoal fishing is the most important branch of the marine fishing industry, the 1993 catch totaling 357000 t. Economically, demersal fishery or mid-water trawling remains the most important fishery branch. The wholesale value of processed products, from a catch of 214000 t, was R614 million in 1993.

About 75 percent of the annual catch of rock lobster is exported. The total wholesale value of rock lobster products was estimated at R138 million for the 1992/93 season. Line fishing yielded 20200 t, with a wholesale value of R145 million. Mariculture of oysters, mussels, abalone, prawns, red-bait and mud crab brought in R9,5 million.

South Africa does not regard it ethically acceptable to kill whales for commercial purposes and has agreed to the retention of the moratorium on whaling which was introduced in 1982. In spite of a fur seal population of about 2 million, no sealing has taken place in recent years because of worldwide opposition to the utilisation of wild animals for the fur trade and to sealing methods.

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