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Water & Sanitation: Every Drop, Every Bit Counts

Water is life and important to our health, hygiene and sanitation. Access to proper water and sanitation is a battle South Africa faces daily, with disadvantaged and impoverished areas being affected the most. Water and sanitation are basic human rights but may feel like luxuries to those who need them most, and the great inequality regarding accessing water cannot be ignored. Besides the obvious yet important reasons such as good health, clean water can also help in improving the economy. To promote socio-economic development, especially in rural areas, we must improve our supply, distribution and management of water and sanitation. In this article, we will take a look at water and sanitation challenges South Africa faces, the benefits of providing clean water for all and how DBSA, the UN and other NGOs and financial institutions are helping in the mission to provide improved water and sanitation for all. 

Day Zero In No Time

In 2015, dam water levels in South Africa started to become a concern, with predictions of major rivers and dams running low on water supply by 2030. 

However, in 2017, South Africans were shocked about the water shortage in the country when the Western Cape’s Cape Town announced that they were fast approaching ‘Day Zero’ – a reference to the day when the water level of the major dams supplying the city could fall below 13.5%. The city implemented major water restrictions to help residents use water in order to help with supply. Many people in the Western Cape province had to adjust to the new water restrictions and succeeded in working together to curb excess water usage.

Even though the solutions and ideas implemented helped reduce water usage and preserve water, South Africa still struggles with access to clean water and sanitation in many areas. In June 2021, Global Citizen reported that the Nelson Mandela Bay in Eastern Cape was looking at a looming Day Zero too. Droughts are costing two of their biggest dams to run dry, with Kouga dam sitting at five billion litres in June 2021, a huge drop from its full capacity of 125 billion litres in 2015. While water-saving tips are helpful for residents, there is a huge need for investment in water and sanitation because the people simply cannot do it alone. 

Clean Water. Healthy Lives. Thriving Economy.

The lack of water supply in South Africa’s rural areas impacts those areas and the country as a whole in a major way. If impoverished and disadvantaged areas receive improved water and sanitation, we stand a better chance at eradicating poverty, improving health costs and driving productivity in businesses. The economic benefits of improved water supply and – in particular – sanitation far outweigh the investment costs, and investing in water contributes to production and productivity in a positive way. Water and sanitation for all is one of the UN’s sustainability goals in an effort to provide clean water to everyone regardless of their area, and through this and other initiatives, development finance institutions, private and public sectors are in support of this goal. One of the major challenges that come with a lack of water and sanitation is that children also aren’t able to attend school. Girl kids suffer more, especially with the ongoing period struggles they face, which adds more pressure. Providing clean water will ripple into a functioning education system and thriving socio-economic development. 

Water & Sanitation Programs At DBSA

We wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have access to clean and safe water, and offer a range of financial and non-financial solutions and support for water and sanitation sectors that deal with the country’s needs. We believe that collectively we can do more to ensure that no area or province reaches Day Zero in this country. 

Final Thoughts

While our use of water daily also contributes to water supply, it is important for government, private sectors, investors and financial institutions to invest in improved water and sanitation. The preservation of lives, improving healthcare facilities and access to clean and safe spaces, ending period shame and struggles, creating jobs and opportunities through supplying and managing water efficiently will not only help those that need them but improve the state of our country’s economy. The Covid-19 pandemic has offered many people the opportunity to consider going into entrepreneurship, and water and sanitation play a huge role in improving great service and product offerings. 


This is a wave that ripples into many other industries and sectors in an effort to create a future that is bright and hopeful. Sustainable development is much more rewarding than depending on help and handouts whenever we run out of water, so one of the first things that need to be done is creating and educating people on how to access and manage water in their areas while the main goal to provide water infinitely is being achieved.