The Draft Second National Water Resources Strategy of South Africa, which has been published for comment, has identified the implementation of water use efficiency, conservation and water demand management as a core strategy to ensure sufficient water to meet South Africa's needs going into the future. This, ‘non-negotiable performance area’, it says, must be implemented immediately in all water use sectors, specifically municipalities. ‘In view of water scarcity, it is essential that such water losses must be curtailed, especially in terms of the need to provide for the growing water demands of new socioeconomic development’, the strategy points out.

While South Africa's non-revenue water levels compare well internationally, as a water scarce country it needs to do all it can to prevent the unnecessary loss of water. This is one of the main recommendations of a recent study into the state of non-revenue water in South Africa commissioned by the Water Research Commission (WRC).

To improve the current situation, the water sector must have a clear indication of the current status of non-revenue water in South African municipalities, more specifically what the actual water losses are and how they are split between physical leakage (real losses) and commercial losses (apparent losses). It is for this reason that the WRC, in collaboration with the Department of Water Affairs, launched the latest investigation into the state of non-revenue water in South Africa, which has now been published.

In the most comprehensive and detailed study of its kind, to date, data were gathered from 132 municipalities throughout South Africa representing over 75% of the total volume of municipal water supply. The study follows on from similar WRC assessments undertaken in 2001, 2005 and 2007. This is the first time the country has a single, representative estimate of non-revenue water as opposed to various estimates in previous years.

The paper shares in more detail findings from this study which have highlighted on average 38% non-revenue water and provide a deeper insight into the problems and challenges faced in tackling water losses in South Africa.

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