National Water Resource Strategy: briefing

Water and Sanitation

23 October 2002
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

23 October 2002

Chairperson: Ms Sonjica

Relevant documents:
National Water Resource Strategy Documents:
Water Use
Water Conservation and Demand
Strategies for Water Resource Management
Water Management Institutions
Financial Implications
National Water Resource Strategy (Government Gazette)

The Committee was briefed on the National Water Resource Strategy focussing on objectives, components and the context of the strategy. Auxiliary strategies were discussed for successful implementation of the Water Strategy. The Department informed the Committee on management mechanisms of water in the country and with neighbouring countries. Conservation of water resources was highlighted. Practical implementation of the National Water Resource Strategy was discussed.

Mr Rawlston - Director of National Water Resource Strategy Planning gave an introduction to the National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS). The strategy was derived from the National Water Policy of 1997 and the Water Act of 1998 which required the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry to formulate the NWRS. The purpose of the strategy was to formulate a broad framework for management of water in South Africa and neighbouring countries.

Water Management Areas
Mr Abdull Parker (Western Cape Department of Water Affairs and Forestry demonstrated how water was transferred across provinces and neighbouring countries. He also explained ways in which the department was trying to improve water quality and access thereto for areas in which it was scarce. He emphasised that contrary to popular belief, there was water scarcity in South Africa. However, he was optimistic that there was potential for maximum water management through efficiency, beneficial use of water and sustainability.

Protection of Water Resources
Ms Belcher (Resource Protection: Western Cape, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry) presented on ways to protect and conserve water resources. She listed and described institutions and systems that were being set up to ensure the protection and conservation of water resources. She listed ways in which the public would be protected form water resource related hazards such as floods, pollution and drought. She concluded by listing the financial implications of the whole strategy and how funding thereof was sourced.

Please refer to Powerpoint Presentation.

Auxiliaries to the Strategy
Mr Rawlston ended the presentation by outlining complementary strategies (capacity, consultation, research, awareness), national and international co-operation (legislation and policy) and intergovernmental planning. Even though these strategies were not listed in the NWRS, they were necessary for the progress of the NWRS.

Please refer to Powerpoint Presentation.

Mr. Maimane (ANC) asked if it would not have been cheaper to use ground water particularly for areas with dry land and scarce rainfall.

Mr. Parker explained while it might be cheaper to use ground water there were often problems with the quality and quantity of that supply and hence it was better to use the pipeline system so far.

Mr. Sibiya (IFP) enquired on how the word 'development' from the presentation was linked to the water strategy. Mr Rawlston explained that there should be no property development without consulting the department about the availability of water in that area. He added that the word 'development' was also used to indicate that access to water was part of the vision of sustainable development in South Africa.

Mr. Simmons (NNP) asked if there was any feasibility baseline study to provide more water for the Western Cape. The reply was negative, but that the strategy was not about particular provinces but rather a nationally co-ordinated system.

Mr. Mathebe (ANC) enquired what the presentation meant by "re-allocating water". He asked the question against his claim that some poor villages were near dams but had no access to water. Mr. Parker explained that re-allocating water meant transferring water from where it was in surplus to drier areas. He added that with the implementation of compulsory licensing it would be easier to re-allocate water. He mentioned that the idea of re-allocating water was to redress inequalities in accessing water for both commercial and residential use.

Mr. Van Wyk (ANC) needed clarity on what the department meant by downscaling agriculture. He asked this question because he could not reconcile downscaling with the need for creating employment. Mr Rawlston explained that their duty was to provide access to water and to decrease the agricultural use of water through efficiency and not by reducing agricultural services.

The Chairperson asked if she was correct to have read the presentation as saying that the water toxicity tests were of low standard. Ms Belcher explained that the only problem with the tests was that they were locally done and that the strategy wanted to make it a nationally co-ordinated network to test water toxicity.

Mr. Van Wyk (ANC) asked why there was no comprehensive strategy for control of the evasive alien plants. Mr Rawlston explained that the department was in the process of devising means of making it the responsibility of landowners to clear and maintain land. He however highlighted some complication such as the existence of alien plants on private land due to previous government policy.

Mr. Van Wyk (ANC) asked if there were any strategies that targeted areas with water scarcity and lack of sanitation, which could be reversed by water supply. Mr. Parker explained that the department could not make such a strategy but that they could consult with local government and municipalities and assist them but not financially because the NWRS's objective was basic water services.

Mr. Van Wyk (ANC) enquired if there were statistics on the spread of ground water. Ms Belcher agreed and promised to supply them on request.

Mr McIntosh (DP) was pleased by the department's administrative and preparatory standards of the strategy and the presentation. He wanted to know if the signing of the Nkomati agreement by the Minister at the World Summit for Sustainable Development fell within the NWRS. Mr. Rawlston agreed and mentioned that the Nkomati River Commission was part of an international agreement and formed part of the NWRS.

Mr. McIntosh (DP) asked who controlled the budget funding. Why was the building of the Tokki dam not mentioned in the department's programme of activities?

The Chairperson asked how NEPAD would impact on the NWRS. Ms Belcher explained that the NWRS was reviewed every five years and that any impact on it would require changes.

Mr. Sibiya (IFP) enquired about the procedures for assisting emerging farmers. Mr. Parker explained that there was some form of financial assistance for emerging farmers but that he could not provide the details of the procedures.

Mr. Simmons (NNP) asked if the NWRS had any strategy for eliminating pollution of water in water scarce areas. Ms Belcher referred him to the ground water protection strategy within the NWRS.

Mr. Mathebe (ANC) was concerned that the department did not consult the constituency offices for its workshops and that his district municipality had no idea of the workshops held by the department. Mr Rawlston said that the consultation was very inclusive and not entirely white. He promised to make a follow up on the district that had no knowledge of the workshops. He added that at the time of the consultation he had no idea that constituency offices could be a resource.

Mr. Phala (ANC) asked if there was any strategy to purify seawater. Mr Parker said that it was too expensive to purify seawater.

The Chairperson asked if the NWRS was going to prioritise areas. Ms Belcher agreed.

The Chairperson enquired if there was any monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the NWRS. Mr. Rawlston agreed and pointed out that there was the National Water Resource Strategy Implementation Plan, which provided mechanisms of monitoring the process.

Mr. Phohlela (ANC) asked if the department was doing anything to promote aquaculture in disadvantaged areas. Mr. Parker said that his department and the department of agriculture were involved in that process and that the committee was welcome if it need details on that strategy.

The Chairperson was pleased by the presentation and mentioned that the committee shared Mr McIntosh's view about the good work of the NWRS. She invited the department to consult the committee if they sought any assistance.

The meeting was adjourned.


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