South Africa - Country Commercial Guide
Environmental Technology
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Water Scarcity Water scarcity is a major challenge in South Africa that also represents a substantial opportunity for investors and businesses in the water sector.  South Africa is ranked as the 30th driest country in the world. It is a highly water-stressed country, with extreme climate and rainfall fluctuations (WRI 2015). Agriculture is the largest user of water followed by municipalities that include residential, commercial, and industrial users. In addition to scarcity, there is growing concern about the quality of both drinking and industrial water. South Africans are one of the highest consumers of water in the world, and some regions, like the Eastern Cape, are in danger of running out of water. By contrast, the East coastline, particularly the Kwa-Zulu Natal area, is flood-prone, which will intensify due to climate change, as well as inadequate infrastructure and planning.

Statistics To address water scarcity and provide reliable water and sanitation to all South Africans, businesses, and industries in the country, it is estimated that approximately R90 billion ($5.21 billion) per year of investment is needed in water infrastructure over the next 10 years (DWS 2017A). Demographic growth and increased rates of urbanization will put further pressure on water resources. According to the 2030 Water Resources Group, South Africa will use 17 percent more water by 2030.

On December 5, 2023, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) rleased its latest Blue Drop report, which examines the state of South Africa’s potable water. Around 46 percent of drinking water was microbiologically unsafe at the time of sampling in 2022, thereby increasing the risk of water-borne diseases. Potable water in the major cities is still considered safe. The report also showed that 47 percent of tap water is considered non-revenue due to faulty infrastructure such as leaking and broken pipes, illegal connections, incorrect billing systems and implementation, as well as inefficient revenue collections by municipalities.

Waste Management Each year, South Africa produces more than 6 million tons of general waste. Around 30 percent is recycled, and the remainder disposed of in landfill- and dumpsites, as well as in the environment. One in ten households does not have proper access to adequate waste collection services, and the situation is further exacerbated in rural and peri-urban communities. Landfills are over capacity, and lack of space is a growing concern. Services are provided by local municipalities who are underfunded, and often poorly managed; as well as private companies, and informal waste collectors who form a vital, but underappreciated role in the waste economy. Several landfill sites operate illegally, or without license.


Limpopo The Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation Project (Phase 2A) project aims to increase water supply in the Lephalale region of the Limpopo Province. The water generated through the initiative will be used as a second source for the Medupi and Matimba Power Stations and will also help meet the growing demand for water in the Lephalale Municipality. The proposed investment value of the project is R12.4 billion ($720 million) and the investment period is five years.

Other areas of opportunity include:

  • Smart metering and monitoring, water-efficient technologies, water reuse technologies, alternative water treatment systems, and water augmentation opportunities such as wastewater reuse and desalination
  • Bulk water transfer projects, which provide opportunities to leverage new technologies.
  • Construction of new dams and irrigation programs
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Leak detection technologies
  • Industrial and commercial sectors that are water intensive such as the food and beverage sectors
  • Municipal level projects
  • Household organic waste composters

Most of these water projects are through the different municipalities and would require a tender process.

Other sub-sector prospects in the EnviroTech sector include:

  • Waste treatment projects
  • Organic waste treatment
  • Pollution and air control
  • Solid waste management


Key Contacts

Department of Human Settlement, Water, and Sanitation (DWS)

Water Research Commission

Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA)

Rand Water - South Africa


For More Information

The U.S. Commercial Service Commercial Specialist for the Envirotech Sector in Cape Town, South Africa can be contacted via e-mail at:


Phone: +27 21 702 7363

or visit our website: