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National Water Resource Strategy

4 July 2013 at 3:29 pm

The National Water Act, 1998 requires the Minister of Water Affairs to establish a National Water Resource Strategy. From the preamble to Part 1 of Chapter 2 of the National Water Act:

Part 1 requires the progressive development, by the Minister, after consultation with society at large, of a national water resource strategy. The national water resource strategy provides the framework for the protection, use, development, conservation, management and control of water resources for the country as a whole. It also provides the framework within which water will be managed at regional or catchment level, in defined water management areas. The national water resource strategy, which must be formally reviewed from time to time, is binding on all authorities and institutions exercising powers or performing duties under this Act.

NWRS1, 2004

The National Water Resource Strategy first edition was published in September 2004. A draft second edition Strategy was published for comment in August 2012. You can read the Centre’s detailed submission of the draft NWRS2 submitted in December 2012, here.

NWRS2 2013

National Water Resource Strategy, 2nd Edition, June 2013 was launched on 3 July 2013.

Note: The website referred to in the document for download of the full text is not functional.

Media coverage: Molewa launches final Second National Water Resources Strategy, Engineering News, 3 July 2013

Executive Summary:

The NWRS2 builds on the first NWRS published in 2004. The purpose of the NWRS2 is to ensure that national water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in an efficient and sustainable manner towards achieving South Africa’s development priorities in an equitable manner over the next five to 10 years. This Strategy responds to priorities set by Government within the National Development Plan (NDP) and National Water Act imperatives that support sustainable development. The NWRS2 acknowledges that South Africa is a water-stressed country and is facing a number of water challenges and concerns, which include security of supply, environmental degradation and resource pollution, and the inefficient use of water.

In the context of the need for growth, equity and protection of water resources, this Strategy identifies three broad objectives: water supports development and the elimination of poverty and inequality; water contributes to the economy and job creation; and water is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in an equitable and sustainable manner. The response to the strategic context and the imperatives set out above is delivered through strategic themes, which discuss in detail the context and challenges, key principles to be sustained, objectives of that particular theme and then proposes strategic actions to achieve the stated objectives.

The most important consideration in all themes discussed is that water is scarce and it requires careful management to enable provision of basic water services and equitable allocation, while meeting the needs of inclusive economic growth without threatening the integrity of aquatic ecosystems. The water resources planning, infrastructure and development theme indicates that surface water sources are limited in many catchments, as indicated by Reconciliation Strategies, and that infrastructure and the costs of construction and maintenance is prohibitive.

South Africa has to prioritise, considering the mix of options available to supply the huge water demands for equitable allocation for development and economic growth. The country will thus consider other potential sources, which include water reuse, desalination, groundwater utilisation, water conservation and water demand management measures, rain water harvesting, recovering water from acid mine drainage, and the import of water intensive goods.

The NWRS2 continues to state that these measures will augment the available water resources in order to support the key developmental objectives of the country. One of the objectives is the equitable allocation of water resources.

The Strategy recognises that the manner in which water was allocated in the past was unequal and favoured only the white section of the population in South Africa. The National Development Plan (NDP) and National Water Act (NWA) collectively inform the intended means to redress past imbalances in the manner in which water was allocated.  The perspective of equity in the Strategy is three dimensional and includes equity in access to water services, equity in access to water resources and equity in access to the benefits from water resource use through economic, social and environmental development and management. The Strategy intends to achieve these objectives through the use of the Water Allocation Reform programme and mechanisms proposed, which include water set aside specifically for redress, compulsory licensing, general authorisations, development support and partnerships to ensure that water is made available to previously disadvantaged groups.

The water resource protection theme emphasises the need to protect our fresh water ecosystems, which are under threat because of pollution from many sources. The need for the determination and preservation of the ecological Reserve and the classification of our river fresh water systems will be a priority. This will assist to determine the nature and the extent of pollution in order to provide appropriate rehabilitation solutions. The Strategy stresses the need for the value of water to be appreciated and for the attitudes and habits of all citizens to change towards water and to work towards its protection. It is reported that climate change will progressively alter the environment in future and present new challenges. The effects of climate change include higher temperatures, altered rainfall patterns and increased occurrence of drought and floods. The Strategy proposes the development of adequate capacity within the sector and the country for monitoring and effective detection and adaptation to protect water and to ensure sustainable water supplies into the future. Reconciliation Strategies project depletion in the water supplies for some water supply systems in the country. In light of the urgency to protect our water resources and the adverse effects of climate change, the NWRS2 submits that water conservation and water demand management should be one of the top priorities, and measures to reconcile demand and supply in order provide for all our goals of a better life for all through job creation and economic growth.

Research published by the Water Research Commission (WRC) in 2013 indicates that Non-Revenue Water (NRW) for urban supply systems over the past six years was at an average of 36.8%, which is equal to 1 580 million m3/a from a total urban consumption of approximately 4 300 million m3/a. This research also indicates that in many municipal water supply schemes, the figures are even worse, with NRW in some cases up to 90%. The irrigation sector, which uses up to 60% of the country’s water resources, accounts for losses of between 35% and 45%.

While some municipalities and other institutions have begun to address the challenge of water loss, the NWRS2 emphasises that effort must be intensified with specific targets set to reduce water loss. Water conservation and water demand management measures will have multiple benefits in terms of the postponement of infrastructure augmentation, mitigation against climate change, support to economic growth and ensuring that adequate water is available for equitable allocation. This requires appropriate institutional arrangements and effective governance.

The management and implementation of water strategies requires competent and accountable management. The Strategy outlines the institutional arrangements that will be established or strengthened to co-ordinate activities related to efficient water resource management within a defined geographical area or catchment boundary. The institutions will be required to perform their duties within a developmental management approach that values the involvement of all stakeholders in defining strategies and plans for management within their defined areas. Smart business approaches will be promoted within the total water value chain management and water footprint.

The NWRS2 is developed within a changing environment and acknowledges that monitoring and collecting relevant data will not only affect the accurate assessments of the status of water resources and the magnitude of water problems, but will vastly improve planning and policy formulation processes. National water legislation (Section 68 of Water Services Act) requires the Minister to maintain a national information system to record and provide data on the development, implementation and monitoring of national policy. The monitoring should not be done only for the sake of our national concerns, but also in response to our obligation within international river basins. Approximately 60% of the streamflow in rivers is shared through trans-boundary water systems. South Africa should ensure that Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is implemented in a manner that conforms to international water protocols and treaties, while being compliant with the legislation governing water resource management in South Africa.

A repository of water resource intelligence will facilitate better interpretation and response to the challenges associated with changing hydrological patterns, climate change, groundwater reserves and innovative responses for reference to the country and neighbouring states with whom we share river basins. The NWRS2 also strongly promotes technology and innovation to contribute to effective and efficient water management solutions that respond to the needs for water security and sustainability for individuals, communities, productive and strategic water use as well as ecosystem services. The research and innovation conducted by the WRC and other research bodies in areas such as wastewater treatment, water quality and water ecosystems, skills and capacity within the sector, climate change and water conservation and water demand management approaches have influenced the themes and interventions contained in this Strategy.

The regulation of the sector to ensure that standards are set and maintained and that there is compliance with the regulatory provisions is a key focus of the Strategy. The achievement of all the country and sector goals must be sustained within an environment that protects the integrity of the National Water Act and all other legislation that has an impact water resource management.

The Strategy promotes the development of a clear regulatory framework for water resources and coordinating regulatory standards and processes with other government departments and regulatory institutions. Compliance monitoring and enforcement is one of the priorities identified by the Strategy and legal, financial and forensic capacity will be developed to ensure effective prosecution for the ultimate protection of South African water resources against any illegal action by institutions or persons in contravention of the required quality and quantity standards.

The NWRS2 emphasises that the achievement of the vision and objective will require support by strong institutions, competent and capacitated personnel with the requisite financial resources to implement interventions.

An investment framework for the Strategy, contained with the financial chapter, outlines the financial capital required to effectively implement all key programmes. This is done within the context that government, development institutions, the private sector and other funders will join hands to provide the necessary funding to support water resource management in the country.

The Strategy also defines the skills required to support effective implementation and outlines the Strategy that will be adopted to raise skill levels through collaboration and partnership with various training and skills development institutions, including universities, Further Education & Training (FET) colleges and universities of technology. A collective approach will be sustained within the Water Sector Skills Task Team, which operates under the auspicious of the Water Sector Leadership Group, to identify the skills gap, and to develop relevant educational and training material and competencies at different levels.

The significant challenge that has been identified and is acknowledged within the Strategy is the lack of implementation of clearly defined priorities. The NWRS1 outlined some of the key priorities for the water sector, which include water conservation and water demand management, equitable allocation of water resources, appropriate institutional arrangements and strengthening regulation, but little progress has been made in these areas. There is a need to change the approach to implementation and ensure that priority programmes are given focus and attention. The NWRS2 Implementation Plan thus proposes that key programmes are prioritised, which include water resource protection, infrastructure planning, operation and maintenance, compliance monitoring and enforcement, and institutional arrangements, and that a collective detailed implementation plan is developed in consultation with sector partners  to clearly identify roles and set measures to monitor progress.