How Can Drought Be Triggered By Human Activities

Human Activities That Can Trigger Drought in South Africa

South Africa is no stranger to droughts, with the country experiencing several severe droughts in recent years. While droughts are often a natural occurrence, human activities can exacerbate and even trigger drought conditions. In this article, we will explore the various ways in which human activities can contribute to drought in South Africa.


Deforestation is a major contributor to drought in South Africa. Trees play a crucial role in maintaining the water cycle by absorbing and releasing water vapor through the process of transpiration. When trees are cut down, this natural process is disrupted, leading to decreased precipitation and increased evaporation. Deforestation also results in soil erosion, further reducing the land’s ability to retain water. The impact of deforestation on droughts in South Africa has been exacerbated by the clearing of land for agriculture and urban development.


Overgrazing is another human activity that can contribute to drought in South Africa. When livestock graze excessively on grasslands, they damage the vegetation and soil, making it difficult for the land to absorb and retain moisture. This can lead to desertification, a process where fertile land transforms into desert conditions. Overgrazing has been a significant issue in South Africa, particularly in areas with a high concentration of livestock farming.

How Can Drought Be Triggered By Human Activities

Water Pollution

Water pollution is a growing concern in South Africa, with industrial and agricultural activities releasing harmful chemicals and pollutants into rivers and groundwater sources. When water sources become contaminated, it can disrupt the natural water cycle and impact the availability of clean water for drinking, irrigation, and other essential uses. Pollution can also affect aquatic ecosystems, which play a vital role in regulating the hydrological cycle. The degradation of water quality due to pollution can contribute to drought conditions by reducing the efficiency of water storage and distribution systems.


The rapid pace of urbanization in South Africa has resulted in the expansion of cities and towns, leading to increased demands for water and land resources. Urban areas are often characterized by large paved surfaces, which prevent rainwater from infiltrating the soil and replenishing groundwater supplies. This phenomenon, known as urban runoff, reduces the amount of water available for natural ecosystems and can contribute to drought conditions. Urbanization also results in the depletion of natural habitats, further exacerbating the impacts of drought on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Climate Change

Climate change is a global phenomenon that is impacting South Africa’s weather patterns and increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, have led to rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns. These changes have resulted in more prolonged dry spells and reduced rainfall in many parts of South Africa, making the country more susceptible to drought. The effects of climate change on drought are expected to worsen in the coming years, highlighting the urgent need for mitigation and adaptation measures.


Human activities play a significant role in triggering and exacerbating drought conditions in South Africa. Deforestation, overgrazing, water pollution, urbanization, and climate change are all contributing factors that can disrupt the natural water cycle and lead to water scarcity. Addressing these human-induced impacts on the environment is essential for reducing the country’s vulnerability to drought and ensuring the sustainable management of water resources. By implementing conservation measures, promoting sustainable land use practices, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa can work towards a more resilient and water-secure future.