South Africa is rapidly approaching a crisis point with regard to water scarcity. In recent years, it has seen a rising number of water challenges. Cape Town faced the threat of "Day Zero" in 2018. In Gauteng, reservoir levels dwindle due to infrastructure challenges and high demand, resulting in increased water supply interruptions. Electricity is needed to pump water to reservoirs and run purification plants. While water systems can handle a few hours without power, longer outages – caused by load-shedding and cable theft – can lead to reservoirs running dry.
South Africa is a semi-arid country with low and erratic rainfall patterns, particularly in the western and north-western regions. The country also experiences frequent droughts and water scarcity. It needs to start managing water as a finite resource: water is essentially ‘only borrowed’, as it all goes back into the system. According to water expert, Professor Anthony Turton, it needs to be recycled 1.5 times to meet the country’s overall water demands.
While South African citizens have been actively seeking innovative ways to reduce their reliance on the electricity grid for some time, the increasing severity of South Africa’s water challenges means they should ultimately be pursuing similar scalable solutions for water.
Supplementing water resources requires an understanding of different sources of water. Not all water sources are suitable for all purposes.
The simplest backup water solution is a municipal one: a tank filled with water that is piped to the house through a filter. Filtration is essential to remove contaminants and make it microbiologically safe to drink, bathe in and cook with.
Another alternative is to sink a borehole, and this must comply with government regulations. To make it safe to drink, borehole water must undergo a purification process.
Finally, a greywater or rainwater harvesting system can be used to supplement your non-potable water requirements.
In essence, what you should be aiming for is not actually ‘going off-grid’, but rather supplementing your existing water supply with an additional system that runs parallel to the grid. The vast economies of scale provided by the municipal grid and backup water constraints mean it is difficult to be totally water-independent.
Also, while the bigger picture is about sustainable supply, going off the grid is also being driven by the rising cost of utilities – even as the cost of new technology falls. This means taking ownership of your own water (and energy) needs and understanding the general principles and guidelines of implementing parallel supplies.
To reduce your reliance on public service providers for water and power, it's important to assess your needs and conduct thorough research. Once you've identified a suitable solution, your bank can assist with funding if required, having already completed the necessary due diligence. Opting for vetted service providers and carefully curated solutions will provide additional reassurance as you make this significant investment in your home.
Once you understand the costs – including capital and ongoing maintenance expenses – you can make the right investment for more sustainable living and working.