Managing our water wisely into the future – Water Affairs refines National Water Resource Strategy
South Africa is not well endowed with abundant fresh water resources. In fact, it is regarded as the 30th most water scarce country in the world. Despite this major challenge, we have thus far done great in harnessing this resource in support of a strong economy and a vibrant society. This was and still is achieved through effective water resources planning, infrastructure development and effective service delivery.
It must however be stated that the country is facing various challenges with regard to its water resources and the management thereof. Various concerns have been raised recently regarding pollution and resource quality, water security for both social and economic development as well as services quality. These concerns must be addressed as they have major social, economic environmental, legal and political impact on our lives and businesses.
In assessing the situation, dealing with the present as well as moving into the future, it should be clear that South Africa will need to adopt an advanced and smart water management approach. The traditional approach of mainly focussing on new water resource development must be extended to also address and prioritise sustainable management including asset management and effective operations, effective use and demand management, local resource optimization including ground water utilization, water systems management and control, re-use, desalination and utilization of sea water, new technology and very importantly, the protection of our precious water resources.
In setting up this new era of smarter and advanced water resources management some critical success factors and principles have been identified. These include inter alia the following:
- Water status needs to be elevated as THE critical resource and primary element of decision making.
- Water resources planning and management must be integrated and aligned with all growth and development as well as social and government outcome strategies.
- Water is everybody’s business. Water management requires active water sector involvement, accountability, commitment and ownership. It will require effective partnerships and teams.
- Water management is a complex business which requires improved sector management, governance, control, co-ordination and leadership.
- Water is not only a technical business. It also needs to include business principles and approaches such as sustainable management, financial management, service delivery and customer care, institutional arrangements, communication and continuous tactical and strategic planning.
- A priority is to invest in people and associated skills and capacity building – from the public to national government.
- Improved water sector knowledge, research, monitoring and evaluation are key aspects of the extended business.
- The issue of water security has put new emphasis on the concepts “value chain” and “life cycle”. In the planning and the provisioning of water, the challenge in many cases is not just a resource issue but rather a supply and delivery issue. This requires holistic and integrated management and governance.
- Water management must be implementation, outcome and impact driven.
· A logical business approach to facilitate such an extended concept and the new era of water management is the development and implementation of an integrated, shared and co-owned water sector strategy. What is meant by this, is that we need an integrated country strategy which is not only a government opinion, but a sector role player committed action plan – from political to use sector, from specialist to concerned citizen.
Fortunately, the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) (NWA), as per section 5(1), not only facilitates such a strategy, it demands the establishment, maintenance and implementation of such a strategy.