Bold steps are needed toward a ‘new normal’ that allocates water fairly in South Africa
Politicians have started using the term “new normal” to mean that people must learn to live with less water. But this masks the political decisions being made around allocation: a “new normal” must make sure that everyone in urban areas has equal access to water and that the law is followed when allocating water to different groups of users – residents, agriculture, business, and industry.
South Africa is a water-scarce country whose cities are full of swimming pools and lush gardens. Inequity and a lack of fairness and justice pervades water distribution. It is time to make some longer term, strategic choices about equity in urban water demand and about the allocation of water resources.
Civil society is calling for action. Its focus needs to be on defining what the so-called new normal means for all South Africans, and thinking outside the box to address the deeper historical and structural realities that people will live with well past Day Zero.
Mary Galvin is Associate Professor, Centre for Social Change, University of Johannesburg