Beer and banking

Conserving the Cauca River

Keeping South Africa's taps running

Our South African subsidiary, SAB, is one of the driving forces behind a government backed, multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to stop South Africa going thirsty in the coming decades

South Africa is a water stressed country which is currently ranked as the 30th driest country in the world, with annual rainfall levels about half the global average. In addition, the country’s water infrastructure struggles with meeting the demand of a historically underserviced population. However, according to estimates from the 2030 Water Resources Group, unless significant action is taken demand will outstrip supply by a factor of 17% in just 15 years’ time, a scenario which could significantly impact the economic, social and environmental prosperity of the country.

The Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) brings together companies, government and non-governmental organisations to collectively contribute to helping find solutions to avert a potential water crisis by addressing critical water issues in South Africa, such as water conservation, demand management and developing more sustainable management of groundwater resources.

SAB has played a key role in mobilising the partnership’s different stakeholders and, together with SABMiller plc, provided the first two years of funding. SAB continues to support the SWPN financially, and has been joined by a number of partners from the corporate sector, including leading corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, Sasol, Anglo American and BHPBilliton. Other funders include international bodies such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and GIZ. The South African government has also committed to contributing funds to the SWPN.

The SWPN has identified several areas where direct intervention could yield tangible results, with pilot projects now running to prove each concept so it can be replicated and scaled-up. The most advanced pilot is called ‘No Drop’. As its name suggests, No Drop focuses on water efficiency and leakage reduction, targeting urban areas that account for a quarter of all water consumption in South Africa. Critically, these municipalities lose as much as a quarter of their water supplies through ineffective and leaky distribution systems.

There is a No Drop scorecard system, which assesses and ranks municipalities on water lost and water used. The scorecard has so far been adopted by all eight major metropolitan municipalities, which between them account for 90% of the value of municipal water lost nationwide. Performance data is being collected and analysed with a view to spotting opportunities to reduce water loss. There is plenty of work ahead for all the partners, but a successful outcome could – by itself – close the 2030 water gap by as much as 22%.

Other pilot projects are also underway, among them an effluent and waste water management scheme focused on the mining industry. It’s early days, but with more partners now contributing financially as well as bringing their expertise to the table, SWPN is poised to make genuine strides towards preventing the 2030 predictions.

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