2014 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Preparing for World Water Day 2014: Partnerships for improving water and energy access, efficiency and sustainability. 13-16 January 2014

Case study: The Energy-Water situation in South Africa

By Mrs. Iris Cheng, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace International


South Africa already struggles with water scarcity, and it is predicted that the country will face a significant water crisis in the coming decade. Nonetheless, new coal investments continue despite the fact that building more coal-fired power stations like Medupi and Kusile in already water-scarce areas, and expanding coal mining to supply them, may essentially send South Africa into a water deficit. According to the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, the demand for water will outstrip supply in Gauteng by 2013 and in the whole of South Africa by 2025.

Greenpeace believes that the impact of new coal-fired power stations on a future water crisis hasn’t been adequately taken into account by the South African government. Greenpeace has developed in-depth research into the energy-water nexus in South Africa, at a time when the connection between water and energy choices was not clearly articulated. Also Greenpeace has begun to engage with potential investors on this issue by providing information about the linkages between coal investments and water scarcity, and potentially stranded assets. Greenpeace is currently in the process of collecting coal testimonials from coal-affected communities, which document the health impacts of coal, but will hopefully also detail how coal is currently impacting on both the availability and quality of water in communities living in coal areas.

It is important that the water demand be managed, and water used as efficiently as possible; the most effective way to manage the water demand for the electricity sector is for Eskom, the energy provider to shift towards relatively ‘water-free’ renewable energy technologies. Accordingly, government departments should ensure that Eskom immediately begins to shift significant investments towards renewable energy as an alternative to coal.