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Climate Change Mitigation in the Water Sector or How to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Water

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The way we respond to climate change now and in the near future will have huge implications - ecologically, socially and politically. One of the most immediate ways in which we are going to experience climate change in South Africa is in the pressure it places on our already scarce water resources, and on our already weak water services. The processes of changing water from a raw natural resource into a treated, piped and widely distributed consumable, involves the use of a lot of energy, which means the emission of a lot of greenhouse gases. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, including the water sector, is crucial. An important question is thus raised: What needs to be done to ensure that there is sufficient water for everyone, in a manner that is acceptable and accessible to the poor, and which is sensitive to both water scarcity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions? This paper attempts to address this question, by looking at the specific greenhouse gas contributions (measured in CO2) of the different stages in water provision and treatment, considering the impacts of alternative technologies and approaches, and identifying good practices which require further support and action.