While South Africa’s 278 municipalities seem to be making some improvements in water delivery and water infrastructure management, water conservation and demand management remained on a “worrisome” downward trend, a new report released by the South African Local Government Association (Salga), on Friday, showed.
The latest Municipal Benchmark Initiative (MBI) report, supported by the Water Research Council, revealed that, while the country’s municipalities saw year-on-year improvements across five of the six MBI performance areas measuring 31 performance indicators, Water Conservation Demand Management saw static movement or declines in five of the six internal indicators.
Nonrevenue water by volume stood out as a top concern as it declined from 33% in 2014 to 34% in 2015 – well above the proposed benchmark of 25%, said Ekurhuleni metropolitan head of water and sanitation and benchmarking ambassador Phil Mashoko.
The number of connections metered, at 84%, and system input volumes for households, at 21 m3 per household a month, remained unchanged, while system input volumes for the population declined to 199 ℓ/d per capita – well short of the 175 ℓ/d benchmark – and water resource management health declined from 59% in 2014 to 57% in 2015.
The 2015 benchmark report, launched in Kempton Park, noted that water conservation and demand management ticked up slightly from 53% to 55%.
The poor performance was mainly as a result of ageing infrastructure and consumer behaviour, he noted.
In the human resources and skills development category, four improvements were reported across six indicators, including the improvement of the national average to 3.2 water services staff per 1 000 connections from last year's 3.4. This was, however, still below the benchmark of four suggested for an optimally staffed municipality.
Technical management skills, the number of water services registered professional engineers and the number of water services technicians also improved.
The service delivery and backlogs module showed improvements in four of the eight indicators and no movements in three.
Access to water and access to sanitation remained stable at 88.5% and 73.5% respectively. While water service quality health check and organisational performance monitoring health check indicators improved, the water services planning health check indicator declined by 1% to 56%, indicating that many municipalities did not have appropriate processes and systems in place.
Operations and maintenance saw progressions in two of its three indicators. The subindicator water services capital investment increased to R415.90 per capita a year in 2015 – edging closer to the R450 benchmark.
Infrastructure asset management health check increased year-on-year to 59% from 51%, while the operation and maintenance of assets remained the same at 51% – both still short of the 100% benchmark.
The financial management performance area remained relatively stable with two slight declines in performance and three advancements, with the remaining six of the 11 indicators remaining steady.
Product quality did well in two of its three indicators, with the third indicator remaining stable.
While the overall outcomes were “good”, the report had now highlighted what still needed to be done, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Andries Nel told media during a sideline press briefing at Emperor’s Palace on the East Rand.
“Without detailed information on the infrastructure, we cannot address the backlogs and establish funding protocols,” said Salga chairperson councillor Thabo Manyoni.
“Measures to address these factors include renewal of infrastructure and intensifying consumer behaviour change on water use through various initiatives,” Mashoko added.
The effective implementation of water conservation and water demand management systems would encourage wise use of water resources and prevent water loss.
Improving municipal performance, efficacy and competiveness remained high on Salga's agenda, with the MBI aimed at assisting municipalities in improving their performance relative to peers.
Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation chairperson Mlungisi Johnson said a review of national water policy positions would provide an opportunity for the consolidation of the National Water Act and Water Services Act into one piece of legislation that governing the entire water value chain, water supply and sanitation services and water resources infrastructure.
“This consolidation will allow for not only the managing of water across the value-chain but also enhance cooperative governance and have clear institutional roles and responsibilities with commonly agreed targets for water and sanitation delivery,” he explained.
A review incorporating water-related legislation and policies would ensure equity in allocation of water, water resources management improvement and the streamlining of regulatory processes.
It would also help to align the frameworks with the provisions of the Municipal Systems Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act.
Johnson also suggested that, to improve the delivery of water and sanitation services, a National Water and Sanitation Resource Strategy be developed to improve the delivery of water and sanitation services since water and sanitation would then be managed through a single strategy.
Further, he called for a review of water pricing strategy to bolster the financial viability of government’s bulk raw water business, as well as developed an efficient funding model and economic regulation for the water sector in South Africa.