National Water Resource Strategy 2012: briefing by Department of Water Affairs

Water and Sanitation

11 September 2012
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by a large delegation from the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) on the National Water Resource Strategy 2. Only three sections of the comprehensive presentation were covered due to time constraints. The first was an overview of the purpose of the Strategy, water concerns and challenges, strategic assessments and key principles of the NWRS. Other areas covered included the implications of the NWRS, the South African situation, design and approach of the NWRS, overarching core strategies, the centrality of water, support strategies, issues in the spotlight and the way forward. The second part covered the assumptions and principles of key demand centres, implementation of strategies, large water reconciliation strategies like the Western Cape Water Supply System, Vaal River System and Olifants River System. It also covered food security, rain-fed crop potential in SA, key strategic messages and All Town Studies.  The last part of the presentation looked at the protecting and managing the water ecosystem, common water quality concerns in SA and issues exacerbating these, prevalence of water quality issues in different parts of SA and the protection of water resources.

Members raised questions on the efficacy of the NWRS as a strategy as compared to a green or white paper, getting water managers to understand the strategy, All Town Studies and a budget that encourages compliance. The primary concerns of the Committee were acid mine drainage, skills capacity, water awareness and ailing infrastructure. Although the Committee was pleased about the comprehensive nature of the presentation, they felt they needed more detail which would come about through the public hearings and further engagement on the topic with the Department.

Meeting report

The Chairperson asked the Department to keep the issues covered in the presentation to a minimum as the House was sitting in the afternoon. He noted the public hearings could help in providing the Committee with more clarity on certain issues.

Mr Maxwell Sirenya, Director-General for DWA, noted that the NWRS had already been to department cluster meetings, had been gazetted and public consultation was now being sought.

The Chairperson asked what processes of public participation the Department was involved in.

Mr Helgard Muller, Acting Deputy Director-General: Policy and Regulation for DWA, said the Department had communicated through the media and had a web page for people to engage and give comments. The Department had also organised regional workshops through its regional offices. There were also specific sector engagements for important sectors like energy, agriculture and mining. He noted there was specific area in the presentation where this issue was discussed.

The Chairperson asked about the target for sending the document for Cabinet approval.

Mr Muller noted it would be around the month of January depending on how the document needed to be amended.

The Chairperson noted he did not hear the Department mention local government in the public participation and hoped they were involved. He asked what the difference was between the NWRS as a strategy and that of a white paper. He wanted to know what binding legality the NWRS had.

Part 1: Setting the Scene: Overview of the strategy
Mr Fredrick Van Zyl, Director:
Water Services - Planning & Information for DWA, began by outlining the purpose of the NWRS saying that it was a legal requirement as well as being a logical business principle, a means to address the serious water challenges demanding intervention, a means to address the complex environment demanding water sector leadership and coordination and a tool to respond to and align with national priorities and strategies. In terms of the legality, Mr Van Zyl said it was a requirement for the Minister to establish a National Water Resource Strategy as the water resources of the Republic must be protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in accordance with the NWRS.

Water concerns and challenges
Mr Van Zyl noted these as being:
• the need to address social and equity obligations,
• water security,
• serious degradation of physical habitats and ecosystems,
• the condition and functionality of infrastructure,
• the need for improved governance,
• the challenges of implementation and
• inadequate funding.
The legal framework through which the NWRS functions was based on the Minister, the Director-General, an organ of state and a water management institution must give effect to the National Water Resource Strategy when exercising any power or performing any duty in terms of the National Water Act (Section 7).  

Assessing the current status of water, he noted that water was not central to development, ownership and awareness was low and the culture, attitudes and values related to water needed to change. Water was not valued, increasing the role of leadership was required and there was a need to integrate governance, planning and alignment.

Mr Van Zyl looked at the key principles of the NWRS 2 noting it was a legal requirement, focused on implementation and was “THE” water management mechanism. The implications of the NWRS were the need to extend the present water management approach from resource development (infrastructure) to improved governance, new technology plus use sector involvement and accountability, the need to invest in knowledge, research, skills and capacity and a critical need for integrated planning and governance with associated leadership.

In terms of the SA situation and message, Mr Van Zyl said SA was the thirtieth driest country in the world, had high run-off viability in space and time, had major social and growth demands, fresh water and development was at its limit, accessibility was low and at a cost and water quality was a major concern.  Looking at water risks, he explained planning was an issue, as was the timeous implementation of programmes and infrastructure, skills capacity and competency, financial management and funding, effective governance, leadership will and drive.

He explained the design and approach of the Strategy highlighting the macro, management and operational levels of strategic intervention, aligning the Strategy with national strategies, operational and implementation strategies and plans and the need for user friendliness, debate and sector involvement.

Mr Van Zyl explained the overarching core strategies along outcome and strategic lines, functional lines and management and governance lines. Outcome and strategy involved
 the implementation of an Equity Policy, putting water at the center of integrated development, planning and decision-making and ensuring water for equitable growth development. Functionality included optimising and stretching water resources and implementing water use efficiently. Management and governance involved the achievement of effective water governance and developmental water management, embedding sustainable business principles and engaging (mobilising) private and water use sectors.

Looking at the centrality of water, he said water dependency and its value needed to be appreciated, there was a need to extend the value concept of water and address the poor culture of water awareness. Water for growth and development was the key purpose of water management. It had implications for sectors and development as well as spatial and conditional implications. Smarter water governance was needed in order to get “back to basics”, address leadership, capacity and “will” and to improve planning and organizing governance. Improved management was needed to promote sustainable resource management, embed and enforce infrastructure asset management and to apply sustainable life cycle approaches. The investment framework was key
for successful implementation. It included infrastructure plus financial plus people, water management and governance. It created a value chain (source to tap-tap to source).

Mr Van Zyl noted that support strategies were instrument for technical water infrastructure and development, climate change, disaster management, groundwater development and management, re-use, desalination and water systems management. Support strategies were for enabling monitoring and information, funding and financial management, capacity and skills development as well as for research and innovation. Support strategies for governance were needed for water allocation reform, institutional arrangements, water regulation and for international water management and cooperation.

Issues in the spotlight was the reality and urgency of the water situation in South Africa, the need to stretch money, water and infrastructure.  More specific issues were value driven water management, democratising water management and a paradigm shift.

Way forward
Mr Van Zyl noted the way forward as:
• public consultation for 90 days;
• consolidate the inputs;
• draft the final NWRS with an emphasis on sector strategy;
• obtaining sector ownership, commitment and partnerships: macro strategies and governance alignment, • sector water strategies and footprints, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs),
• water security strategy (Presidential Announcement)
• implementation plan,
• NWRS 2 governance framework and structure,
• DWA leadership, framework and capacity 
• communication strategy and action.

The sector engagement process involved national workshops, political engagements (such as with the Portfolio Committee, meetings with department clusters and public hearings as well as engagement with communities and civil society. The process and format of these engagements would be through workshops, one-on-one engagements, web-based communication, submitted input, a communication and media strategy as well as formal forums.

The Chairperson said he found it difficult to take all the information in. He noted a number of good issues were covered such as the emphasis on the centrality of water and for DWA to be the leader on water issues. He found it difficult to work out the importance of the different areas covered and the only way for him to work it out would be through more engagement. He liked the method and different themes that the Committee had brought to the fore on previous occasions appeared.

He raised the Climate Change paper composed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and was highly impressed at the substantial changes made from the Green Paper to the White Paper in a short amount of time, from February to June after public consultations and intervention from the Committee. DWA should take tips from them to make sure everyone was consulted. The danger was that the document then became a policy trap that was why he asked what the difference was in effect of the Strategy compared to a White Paper. He felt it was wrong to look at the Strategy as a subset of industrial development policy. He said that even though the Strategy was adopted at the Cabinet lekgotla, he said the Committee could still push for it. He was relatively comfortable with the presentation as an overview.

Mr G Morgan (DA) also noted it was a massive amount of information to take in but said the public hearings would help in creating more understanding. He felt the Strategy was like a manifesto which highlighted what the Department wanted to do, intentions going forward and noted there was nothing wrong with that. He was glad that governance and management was highlighted and there were firm proposals on the table. He wanted the comment of the Department on skills – to what extent was it highlighted in the Strategy and where would they find these skills. In a related question, he asked how the Department would get water managers to understand the Strategy. He felt that after consultations, DWA needed to work on letting managers take ownership of the Strategy through workshops and accredited courses. He felt the Strategy was big and very detailed and it was important for managers to be committed to the cause and understand the philosophy of the Strategy in relation to water management. He hoped this would be part of the implementation process to prevent the Strategy from being a document that landed up on the bookshelf.

Ms B Ferguson (COPE) noted that skills were seriously lacking in many areas. She questioned how water awareness would be addressed through culture across the board.

Mr Van Zyl replied that the existing leadership needed to be strengthened and he also mentioned the Department was in partnership with sectors to own the Strategy. He said the paying for water was closely tied to changing the value of water.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) also raised questions on the issue of skills and their availability.

Mr Sirenya suggested the Members wait for the presentation on skills.

The Chairperson was interested in the drafting of implementation plans that would possibly arise after the 90 day consultation period and drafting of a final strategy for the NWRS Two. These implementation plans were important and needed to be correct. He wanted the Committee to be closely involved in these drafting processes as they were with the White Paper on Climate Change. He also noted there was no need to rush the process to be completed in 90 days in order for a solid report.

He questioned why communications was placed second in the presentation. Although it was important, he said it should be spoken about later.

Mr Sirenya suggested the area covering water security be spoken about instead.

Part 4.1: Water Security
Mr Johan Van Rooyen, Director of National Water Resource Planning for DWA, began by saying the NWRS One was very important for providing an overview of statistics on demand and availability and water balances and for providing strategies to reconcile the requirements and available resources. It was important to remember that SA was sharing its rivers with its neighbouring countries and their requirements for water needed to be considered in SA’s national strategy and this obligation was prioritised in the National Water Act.

Mr Van Rooyen noted that water quality was an important issue as it was essential that water be of appropriate quality for intended uses. Deteriorating water quality was a potential major threat in SA which could render water unfit for use. The main sources of impact on water quality were the discharge of urban and industrial effluent to rivers, high salinity irrigation return flows, wash-off and leachate from mining operations and wash-off from areas with insufficient sanitation. Water quality was a fundamental element to water resource management but most problems could be solved at source. Chapter Two and Appendix D of the NWRS One (2004) summarised the water resource situation, addressed the scarcity of fresh water in SA, noted that fresh water was limited and unevenly distributed and the situation varied from area to area.

The Reconciliation Strategies coming out of the NWRS One included:
• water demand management and conservation,
• surface water resource management (operation of dams) and conservation,
• managing the use of groundwater,
• re-using water, eradication of invading alien vegetation,
• re-allocation of water,
• development of surface water resources (such as dams),
• transfer of water and
• desalination was mentioned in NWRS but not summarised as one of the strategies.

Building on NWRS One, statistics were only on a broad overview level, statistics could be used, for instance to build infrastructure but more detail was required.

The Large System Reconciliation Strategies Studies were to develop future water requirement scenarios in consultation with users, to investigate all possible water resources and other interventions, to investigate all possible methods for reconciling the requirements with the available resources and to make recommendations for development and implementation of interventions.

He looked at the key demand centres, according to the National Spatial Development Perspective in terms of their assumptions and principles and noted, planning based on high future requirement scenarios (final implementation could be delayed if necessary), availability could be determined (taking account of normal huge variability in SA’s climate, but also climate change) and monitoring and adjustment was crucial.
The implementation of the strategy would be conducted through a strategy steering committee for each area, monitoring of the implementation, update strategies, communicate with members: DWA; province(s); municipalities; CMAs; Water Boards; water user associations; user groups; co-operative government in action and information from strategies supplied to a Water Sector Infrastructure Investment Framework. He also mentioned the progress of DWA on these strategies.

Mr Van Rooyen looked at the All Town Studies initiated in 2009 as a three year programme to cover all other towns. He turned to look at three examples of the large system reconciliation strategies namely; the Western Cape Water Supply System; Vaal River System and the Olifants River System.

Mr Van Rooyen looked at the Western Cape strategy in terms of
complete feasibility studies for three options – surface water; re-use and the desalination of seawater. He said a Strategy Steering Committee would be established to recommend the next augmentation by Mid-2013 and to supply water by 2019.

He turned to the Vaal River System Strategies noting it revolved around the eradication of large unlawful irrigation use by 2013; treating and using mine effluent by 2015; preparation for the implementation of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Two to deliver water by 2020 and to investigate the re-use of urban return flows.

Mr Van Rooyen looked at the Olifants Reconciliation Strategy in a nutshell stating the Department wanted to operationalise the Reserve as soon as practical. Water to power stations would continue to be supplied from the Usuthu, Komati and Vaal systems. Other water required to supply the current and future social and economic activities in the Olifants catchment would have to come from the catchment’s local resources and water required by Polokwane and Mokopane will be augmented from the Olifants catchment

He turned to the food security/self-sufficiency debate, saying it would become very topical and emotional and it would have a large bearing on the water resource debate. He gave an overview of a report that had assessed the rain-fed crop production potential in South African’s neighboring countries. It highlighted that irrigation in SA used 60% of water; a large proportion of crops internationally were regarded as “rain-fed” crops; investigation showed there were “high-potential rain-fed cropping land” in Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Key strategic messages
• Detailed work had confirmed the broad strategies of NWRS 1 but had added desalination as a strategy, water management was complex,
a solution entailed more than just the addition of dams,
Water Conservation / Demand Management (WC/WDM) extremely important in all areas. SA cannot afford to waste water anywhere any time.
groundwater was important but currently under-valued and under-used and
there was a huge potential for an increase in the re-use of not only coastal systems but inland systems, that is, the Vaal River system.
there was a limited opportunity for more dams,
dams and interbasin transfers were inevitable in certain areas although they were very expensive,
desalination was another option (both mine water and large scale seawater)
possible to make water available anywhere in the country but at steeply rising costs
water from the Zambezi was too costly to transfer
• water for increase in irrigation in SA very limited
• moving water from irrigation to other use must already be considered in certain areas
• food could be grown by SADC countires and traded to SA
• catchment rehabilitation, clearing of invasive aliens, rainwater harvesting
can be undertaken
key messages from the All Town Studies were that improved management would solve the largest portion of the immediate problems and
groundwater was a very important resource for towns.

Desalination strategy and Re-use strategy – see document for details.

To conclude, Mr Van Rooyen said water management was complex but it was possible for SA to have water security, we could use water more efficiently and we could make more water available but we had to implement the plans the water sector needed. Much more financial and appropriate human resources was needed, unpopular decisions would have to be made from time to time, we needed fully functioning institutions, water was going to cost more looking into the future, trade-offs would be necessary and water would have to be central in all planning.

The Chairperson asked if the Department had taken all the water affected by acid mine drainage (AMD) into account.

Mr Van Rooyen replied that it was all taken into account. He noted the Department was not looking at all the water in storage as it was not a sustainable option but a temporary resource.

The Chairperson asked about the Witwatersrand basins. While the cost factor was important, he thought it was a good option and should be put on the Department’s reconciliation plan.

Mr Van Rooyen said it was important to note it was not replenished. At this point, it was partially considered as part of the Department’s plan. It needed more studies to use the full potential that could be available.

The Chairperson asked when there would be a full report on AMD as he felt maybe the wrong impression of the source of water was being created and the information was currently not scientific enough.

Mr Van Rooyen noted there was a huge difference between the AMD of coal and gold mines.

The Chairperson felt that this should have already been worked out as to what water could be used. He mentioned that Anglo-American’s CEO had invited the Committee to visit their Mpumalanga plant where they were selling water to the municipality making the point that the private sectors were already moving in on these options. He said AMD was interesting but the Department was lacking in providing studies on its viability.

Mr Sirenya said there was extreme lobbying for different local and international parties to get involved and said the Department itself was very interested  

The Chairperson said he was aware of this but DWA needed to do their research quickly to investigate the different options. The more information and research there was, the more there was too gain.

The Chairperson questioned the All Town Studies and asked if there was a report on water infrastructure repairs and their related cost.

Mr Van Rooyen said it was important to measure both the intake and loss of water in municipalities but the Department had estimated the loss of water.

The Chairperson said that currently, everyone should have a water meter and if this was not so, it was a matter that needed to be looked into and to be stipulated in the law.

The Chairperson said the Department needed to fill in the gaps quickly in relation to AMD in order for the Committee to reach consensus and to make a submission to Treasury like on the All Town Study. He appreciated the input provided from this part of the presentation.

Mr Morgan questioned role of religious or cultural identities in forming opinions of the Department in the different options for increasing water supply, citing the case of part of the Muslim community in Durban being very opposed to the idea of re-using sewage water. He also wanted the Department to expand on the comment that towns did not like groundwater. This discussion could be expanded to the dissent on the desalination of AMD and seawater. He wanted the Department’s comments on these issues.

Ms M Wenger (DA) wanted to know if the Department knew the difference in percentage of water loss between sheer losses and the case of people not having meters. She questioned the replacement of ailing infrastructure. She asked how municipalities came to their figures of declaring water losses in their annual report if many did not have meters.

Ms Tsotetsi raised a question in relation to the implementation of water pipes and their quality. She also raised a point on the elimination of unlawful water use.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) questioned the steering committee for each area in terms of monitoring. She felt that municipalities who were not coping needed to be aided.

Mr Morgan asked where new technology fitted in like fog water harvesting as an option of augmenting natural supplies.

Mr Van Rooyen said the involvement of communities was factored into public participation which was low in the case of eThekwini. It was something to work through so that the best solution could be reached.

The Chairperson said there should be a law that effluent water should be used in golf and polo courses.

Mr Van Rooyen said groundwater resources were misused and the perception of its use needed to be changed. It was hard to calculate the amount of water lost considering that many municipalities did not have meters. The other option was real water being lost through ailing infrastructure which would be less if the maintenance of existing infrastructure was better looked into. Unlawful water use was an issue of compliance and was not a simple matter, especially when considering who was a lawful user and who was not. In the end, it came back to metering.

Mr Muller said metering was part of the regulations of the Department in terms of Section 9 of the Water Services Act were it was obligatory of municipalities to report on their metering

The Chairperson suggested a report on the matter be started and to stipulate on what the Department planned to do.

Part 4.3 Protection and managing the water ecosystem
Ms Ndileka Mohapi, Chief Director: Water Ecosystems for DWA, looked at the common water quality concerns in South Africa which were: AMD,
sporadic sewage effluent spillages (microbiological contamination), other localized pollution in urbanized and industrialized areas, eutrophication and salination (diffuse pollution). She said these issues were exacerbated by the over-abstraction of ground and surface water in many catchments, habitat destruction (sand-winning from riverbeds, invasive alien aquatic plants, and agricultural activities in riparian zones) and developments in estuarine zones.

Ms Mohapi looked at the prevalence of the water quality issues in the different parts of South Africa:
Eutrophication – Crocodile West Marico, Lower & Middle Vaal, Mvoti to Umzimkhulu and Umzimvubu to Keiskamma
Acid manage Drainage – Upper Vaal, Olifants, Middle Vaal, uThukela, Inkomati, Crocodile West Marico, Limpopo
Microbial contamination – countrywide with minimal impacts in Usuthu to Mhlathuze, uThukela and the Orange
Salination - countrywide with minimal impacts in Mvoti to Umzimkhulu

Looking at the protection of water resources, she said this was addressed by two broad based approaches: resources directed measures and source directed controls.

Ms Tsotetsi questioned the hierarchy of decision making and questioned if the Department had a budget to encourage compliance. 

Ms Mohapi replied that the Department aimed to complete the regulatory tools to achieve aims. An example was the waste discharge charge system which had mitigating charges to protect the resource.

Ms Ferguson noted she was concerned about the problem of AMD in Limpopo.

Ms Mohapi noted the historical aspect of unused mines but stated the Department did have solutions in mind as a treatment for the problem, especially so in terms of enforcement.

The Chairperson said it was not a question of right and wrong.

Due to time constraints, the meeting had to end. The Chairperson said he would let the Director General know when the Committee could find another slot to deal with the rest of the briefing on the NWRS. Mr Sirenya listed the areas of the presentation that still needed to be covered.

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