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Paradigm shift needed in SA water management, says Anthony Turton

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A paradigm shift, one that moves from thinking about water as a stock, to water as a flux, is needed in South Africa. This is according to Dr Anthony Turton, who is a water resource management expert and professor at the University of the Free State.

Turton was speaking on Tuesday, 13 February, at a Water Symposium, jointly organised by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the Wandile Zulu Foundation at the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre in Johannesburg.

For Turton, “the water crisis in Cape Town has forced us to a point where we cannot go any further with our paradigm of scarcity.”

Turton believes that “we should reach out and understand the physics and chemistry of water better… water is not a stock, simple as that. Water is not a stock. Water is a flux. A flux moves in time and space. Water is not a finite resource, it is an infinitely renewable resource.”

We actually do not have a water problem, says Turton, “we have a pollution problem, a salt problem, or a problem about water at the wrong time, the wrong place, too far, too dirty – that is the problem. So we must reframe the problem, and we need this new paradigm of abundance.”

He explains that the three components to the paradigm of abundance are: “1) the recovery of water from waste – we have to put time, effort and technology into that, 2) we have to remove salt where it is relevant, and 3) the conjunctive use of groundwater – where in times of crisis we draw it down, and in the good years we recharge it and put it back.”

Turton believes that the paradigm of abundance “has the potential to become the Marshall Plan for South Africa,” but cautioned that such a shift needs policy certainty as “policy certainty enables technology and capital come into the space.”

You can watch an excerpt of Anthony Turton’s talk below: