The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is seeking partnerships with the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, to strengthen the current water and sanitation policy environment, said Minister Nomvula Mokonyane during the Water Infrastructure Investment Summit (WIIS), which was held in December in Sandton, Johannesburg.Mixed Reactions
The department announced its launching of the WIIS earlier in 2017, following which “mixed reactions” in the media emerged, some of which hinted that the department would possibly consider privatising the water sector.
The WIIS was designed to provide a meaningful conversation on how the DWS and various sectors could “crowd in investment to mitigate the gap in the funding model provided by the fiscus”, said Mokonyane. The event also highlighted ways in which the sector could benefit from internalising new ideas to resolve various challenges in the water and sanitation environment.
Regarding the DWS’s policy, she clarified that there was no change, but that the DWS was aiming to use the WIIS to enhance collaboration among various role-players to build a “strong, powerful and effective Team Water SA”.
Mokonyane said that, through the WIIS, the department was seeking a new partnership with the business and investment sector to ensure water security, which would ensure access to safe water and sanitation and was in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.Economic Growth
Partnerships formed and understandings reached through the WIIS are also aimed at making water available to allow for and encourage economic growth and prosperity in ways that enhance South Africa’s competitiveness.
In addition, the WIIS was also geared towards enhancing the channels through which “the best science and innovation” could be identified and developed to assist the South African water sector in becoming what Mokonyane described as “one of the leading water countries”, thereby enabling the country to play a strategic role internationally to enhance water security.
However, achieving a sustainable and world-class water sector required a “simple, yet complex” solution, she noted, explaining that this involved the DWS organising its structures to address fundamental factors such as those identified in the draft Water and Sanitation Master Plan, which is currently the subject of wide consultation.
Water infrastructure also required urgent attention, with specific emphasis on the refurbishment of established networks, while modernising them through real-time monitoring sensors which would convert such networks into intelligent systems.
“We need to deal with our infrastructure backlog innovatively, taking advantage of the new solutions and innovations coming out of research and development,” Mokonyane said.