Written by Bronwynn Harris, SIZA Junior Environmental Specialist
Water is a finite resource, meaning that it cannot be readily replaced by natural means at a pace quick enough to keep up with consumption. South Africa is classified as semi-arid with an average rainfall of 464mm per year, ranking us as one of the top 30 driest countries in the world; therefore, the conservation of water is a problem that hits close to home. Due to a changing climate and the increased demand for agricultural production, the effective management of water is paramount, including safe and appropriate treatment and disposal of wastewater generated.
The agricultural industry relies mainly on the availability of clean water and is also one of the first to feel the effects of the mismanagement of water. The incorrect management of water and wastewater can lead to a whole host of environmental and social issues, including water shortages, soil erosion, aquifer salinisation, and pollution, all of which affect the ability of farmers to produce crops sustainably and cost-effectively.
To effectively reduce the pressure placed on our water resources, we need to mitigate and reduce the risks associated with the improper management of water whilst encouraging the continuous improvement of management practices. The first step towards achieving this is by measuring water practices and using quantifiable data to make informed decisions surrounding water. SIZA recently launched the SIZA Digital Recordkeeping tool as part of its online platform where management and/or stakeholders can easily capture and monitor their data in a standardised manner whilst providing a platform for members to interpret the effectiveness of their conservation efforts. This allows growers to compare the performance of different crops or blocks and achieve the highest yields with the least amount of water used.
Although the SIZA Environmental programme focuses specifically on water as one of its cornerstones. The overall goal is to promote businesses to have a holistic approach to water and wastewater management by looking at their overall management of soil; energy, materials, and waste; and biodiversity and ecosystems. This enables producers to identify integrated practices to use water more efficiently, reduce the water volumes that need to be disposed of, and continuously improve their practices. Therefore, the second step to water conservation is to incorporate the data and knowledge of the nature and volumes of water used and wastewater produced into a water management plan that is regularly reviewed. This approach allows management to have an in-depth understanding of their impact on the environment and continuously improve and monitor the efficiency of the practices implemented by the business.
Every drop counts when it comes to the effective management of water, including safe and appropriate treatment and disposal of wastewater generated. The SIZA Environmental Standard, along with SIZA Digital Recordkeeping and the MySIZA platform, provides the guidance, traceability, and framework for members to do their part in ensuring water for the future.