The USA has inaugurated its 45th President, Donald J Trump. In what can only be described as one of the most confrontational and introspective inaugural speeches in living memory, the new incumbent thundered his way into office with threats and promises which must have confused supporters and allies alike. In the past, new presidents have avoided “post electioneering” in their acceptance speeches. They recognised the inauguration ceremony for the dignity and respect demanded by the Presidential Office and thus maintained a neutral and hopeful tone to the anticipating millions watching at home and abroad.

No, not Mr Donald J Trump, businessman, TV star and erstwhile new politician. In the first speech of his term of office, he broadcast his intent to run the country like a fiefdom “in the name of the people”. “Returning power to the people” is a gross oversimplification of the complex process of government. Countries cannot be governed like companies are managed. Countries don’t “have to make a profit” for a start off. If he proposes to run the USA like he ran “The Apprentice”, we can expect fireworks which I suspect may rock the very basis of the two party system in the USA. It is normal for politicians to be given a ”100 day honeymoon period” to settle into the job and set the tone of their approach to Presidential government. In the case of “King Donald of Trumpland”, I wonder if the 100 days will be reached before there are serious cries of “impeach, impeach” emerging from the good citizens of the USA?

Here at home, South Africa is still labouring under severe drought conditions. Not surprisingly, the recent rains which have added a little water to our dams have prompted many folk to assume the drought is over and start pushing for the lifting of water usage limitations and controls. The matter is not that simple. Demand for treated, potable water continues to grow and there has not been a drop in population growth so more people are requiring water in addition to the added provisions of providing reticulated water supplies to all communities in the country. It is well known that as populations are uplifted and become more affluent, they use more potable water. South Africa has always been a water deficit nation and until recently, the solution was to build more dams. It has been made clear that there is a limit to the number of new dams that can be built and existing dam walls raised. The focus must shift to ways and means of reducing demand. The population, one and all, has to use water more frugally and treat it as a scarce resource. Section 27 of the South African Constitution says that everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water. We have the right to “sufficient” water but do we recognise that we also have the responsibility to ensure that there is “sufficient” water for all who need it through conservation and wise use?

Commerce and industry in South Africa also need to apply some creative thinking to their use of water and energy. We have seen the impact of load shedding on business and economic growth in the past few years. We are about to enter a period of water shortage which will probably emulate electrical load shedding. Water and energy usage can be reduced through more effective, efficient and systems-sensitive approaches. This thinking needs to start NOW and be supported by realistic allocation of manpower and resources to the reduction efforts. Waiting until the water and energy run out is counter-productive and will cost the country and its people dearly.

Arend Hoogervorst

Editor: Practical Environmental Options

Managing Partner: Eagle Environmental