In the second-half of 2016, and early 2917, South Africa endured one of its worst droughts in close on 30 years. Coming so close on the heels of the previous year’s severe drought it got me thinking. Most of us grow up knowing that South Africa is a water-scarce country(we’re taught that at school) but I’m not sure that we understand what that means, especially as a fairly robust water network has to date meant we almost always have water in our taps. But what happens if that stops working or, as is most likely the case, the system is unable to service a growing population in times of severe water shortages?

As a first step I began to look at the water storage infrastructure in the country, primarily the dams dotted around the country. Which were the big ones? Which were the small ones? Where are they mostly located?

That was the first part of the project. The second part was to look at how these dams were replenished. One of the features of the most recent drought was the apparent disconnect between rainfall and water availability. In parts of Gauteng province, for example, there were strict water restrictions in place while at the same time there were floods in those areas. We had floods that wreaked havoc with property and in a few cases claimed lives. And yet there was barely a drop in the taps. That led to some work on the various catchment areas and how they fed the all-important dams that supplied the major metropolitan areas.

The result was Part 1 of a planned series on water. The project combines narrative with interactive visualisation to try and tell a simple but important story.

To view the full interactive story visit our water page.

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