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Aug 27, 2012

Govt seeks collaboration with industry to close R670bn water plan's funding gap

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Agriculture|Engineering|SECURITY|Africa|Industrial|Resources|Security|Water|Water Services|Africa|South Africa|Security|Energy|Mining|Security|Services|Water Management|Water Services|Environmental|Edna Molewa|Fred Van Zyl|Infrastructure|Security|Water
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The capital requirement for the water sector has increased to R670-billion over the next ten years, up from an initial estimate of R573-billion earlier this year, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Monday as she published the second National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS2) for comment.

The funding gap stood at R338-billion over this period, but the Minister indicated that the bill could be lowered significantly by improving water management and governance as laid out in the new water resource plan.

The department aimed to source the funding over the ten-year period from a combination of budget allocations, rechanneling of funds, inter-department collaboration, the national fiscus and various other mechanisms such as co-sponsorships and partnerships with the private sector; however, the funding options were still under examination and a new investment model was being developed.

The department’s initial investment framework covered infrastructure and developments in water management and water services, but has since extended to include, besides others, agricultural irrigation schemes, owing to the extent of the water losses occurring in this sector.

Water Services director and NWRS2 task leader Fred van Zyl told Engineering News Online that the DWA would seek to incorporate commitments by the various industries into the new NWRS2.

The long-awaited plan had received support and commitments from major industry players in sectors such as mining, agriculture and energy to implement water management plans.

Van Zyl said that the department, over the next few months, aimed to source agreements and memorandums of understanding from the various sectors to develop additional chapters to the strategy.

The proposed NWRS2, which aimed to mitigate the protection, use, development, conservation, general management and control of South Africa’s scarce water resources, would be available to stakeholders for a period of 90 days, after which Molewa would finalise the policy and action the strategies tabled.

The first NWRS, published in 2004 and promulgated in 2005, set out the blueprint for water resources management for the first time in the country. The second strategy was anticipated to outline the strategic direction for water resources management over the next five years.

Van Zyl noted that the department and the various sectors would develop individual chapters outlining strategies customised to the industry and would analyse their water footprint, water use efficiency, contribution to the value chain and job creation, as well as the pollution, social and economic impact of each sector.

Some of the sectors had already developed water management initiatives, including establishing water footprints, water master plans and effective and smart water management strategies.

Molewa noted that the mining sector, urban development, industries and agriculture were identified as the main contributors of deteriorating water quality.

“This pollution negatively impacts on the quality of ground water, which at times, is the only source of water for communities in some of our rural areas,” she said.

Currently, the agriculture sector, on which 8.5-million people were indirectly or directly dependent on for employment or income, accounted for 60% of the country’s water use. This was followed by municipal and domestic sectors using 27%. However, the municipalities registered water losses of up to 37% and, where no records were kept, it was estimated that this loss reached 50%. In many irrigation and domestic schemes, losses reached 60%.

The mining, energy and industrial sectors used 2.5%, 2% and 3%, respectively, of the available water in South Africa.

The NWRS2 pointed out that South Africa, which was labelled the thirtieth driest country in the world, suffered from low levels of rainfall, with high variability and high levels of evaporation owing to its hot climate. Further, the United Nations ‘World Water Development Report 2012’ earlier ranked South Africa 148 out of 180 countries for water availability per capita.

Despite the country’s 2 528 registered water-supply dams and expansive investment into infrastructure, the country’s financially viable freshwater resources were almost depleted. The first water strategy pointed out in 2004 that most of South Africa’s water management areas held water deficits.

Further, of the 223 river ecosystem types in South Africa, 60% were threatened - with 25% critically endangered.

Addressing concerns that unresolved water security, water quality and associated water management challenges could restrict South Africa’s socioeconomic growth, the NWRS 2 would focus on the roles played by government, the DWA, catchment management agencies, water services authorities and water boards. However, strong collaboration between industry, government and citizens were required to adequately deal with the water challenges.

Meanwhile, Molewa identified a shortage of engineers, scientists and artisans, as well as adequate leadership, governance and oversight as a “critical challenge”.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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