Water resource management: CSiR briefing, with Minister & Deputy Minister

Water and Sanitation

17 February 2016
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Meeting Summary

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research gave a briefing on the economics of water resource management in South Africa, with a focus on the path to a green economy.

It provided an overview of water resource management in South Africa; spoke about who is using how much, where; efficiency, equity and sustainability of water resources; and interpreted water’s role in the National Development Plan Vision 2030. Highlights included depictions of the total average water available annually and the uses to which this is put, including water thirsty industries. CSIR also presented approaches to managing both the demand and supply sides of the water sector, including economic incentives to reduce demand such as the use of virtual water by importing water hungry products and the trading of water use rights. Non-market related controls were also noted, such as rebates for the fitting of efficient systems. The quality of water supplied was the next major aspect, as this can be used to control demand and the problem of using potable water for non-drinking uses was raised. Lastly, regarding the National Development Plan Vision 2030, the most important aspect was that water has to be managed according to scarcity principles. Policy makers and the Committee must decide how best to use the limited water we have and difficult questions need to be asked, such as whether South Africa can sustain having a large irrigated crop industry.

The discussion saw Members raise questions on how to revitalise the existing water resources and strategies to maximise the scarce resources. Concerns were raised about the unlawful use of water by farmers and other high volume water users.

The Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation responded to the presentation, emphasising that the Department and Ministry were considering the types of matters raised in the presentation and operate off of a scientific basis. An example of this is the War on Leaks campaign, which aims to manage the supply side concerns, particularly as this is lost revenue. She also agreed with many of the points raised by the presentation on critical focus areas around water resource management.

Meeting report

Economics of water resource management: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSiR)
Dr Willem de Lange, CSiR Senior Economist, said he had been requested to present on the economics of water resource management. Members should be aware that South Africa is in the midst of a severe drought and as water is a cross-sectoral input, like electricity, the situation is serious. The agricultural sector is being hammered, people are transporting water with trucks and this raises the question of what the actual value of water is. He would also talk about water and the pathway towards a green economy. There are several aspects which will be covered, but the field is so diverse that it is impossible to cover the whole sector and the issue of its efficient, effective, sustainable and resilient management.

Dr de Lange gave a brief about the CSIR and its mandate. CSiR is a science council classified as a government business enterprise and its executive authority lies with the Minister of Science and Technology. The CSiR works with organisations such as the National Research Foundation, Water Research Commission and Council for Geosciences. The CSiR is sub-divided into different units and he was from the Natural Resource and Environment Unit (NRE Unit), which assesses and monitors the state of the natural environment, with a focus on resources. It supports planning and decision making processes regarding natural resource utilisation around South Africa. Such decisions include who has access to what, how much and when. It also designs and implements technologies, such as water pollution and waste solutions, because these are pressing matters currently. It has a dedicated thrust in this direction, called the Water Sustainability Flagship which is a focussed effort to contribute to efficient sustainable water use. The NRE Unit is also involved in research on water infrastructure development; integration and planning; monitoring and evaluation of compliance, and advising on water policy and governance.

Dr de Lange said his interpretation of the brief was to do four things: provide an overview of water resource management in South Africa; present a balance of who is using how much, where; comment on the efficiency, equity and sustainability of water resources; and a specific request to interpret water’s role in the National Development Plan Vision 2030. He would try to speak to these points in the context of the principles of the green economy, because this is the road which has been chosen by the country. Just completed is a book on greening the South African economy, where the CSIR really tried to touch on all the facets of a green economy and where South Africa should direct itself. It is an outcry from the scientific world to the political world and it will be online soon. He had written a chapter in the book focusing on the long term picture for water and the content of the presentation draws heavily from this.

Dr de Lange said CSiR argues that the green economy requires a holistic approach towards policy making, not only balancing the economic and social aspects, but also considers the consequences of these policies. What does this mean for water resource management? Basically four things: the need to decouple, continuing the drive towards more efficient water use as part of the transitioning process. There needs to be social buy-in in this process, to facilitate social transition and improved water stewardship through changing perceptions about the utilisation of water. We also need to account for poverty and inequities, because the playing field is not level and must account for the distortions of the past. Lastly, there is the need to be innovative from both a technological and social perspectives. These four heads should be the focus of water resource management.

Dr de Lange said before focusing on that, Members should keep in mind that a short background will be given around why water is such a difficult resource to manage. Aside from being the source of all life it is one of the primary inputs into the economy, making it a crucial resource with huge political significance and history. Further, it is a scarce resource in South Africa which is a water scarce country. All of this creates a platform to create a complex and often emotional arena for decision making. It implies that the trade-off made in decisions must be made fairly robustly and fairly. Assessing the social optimal allocation of water resources is a complex undertaking, which involves balancing many pressing, often diverse, interests. This is compounded by water’s high variability throughout time and space, being almost never static. This means that while water is considered a renewable resource it could run out in some places at certain times. Water is also inherently mobile, meaning it has common property and open access characteristics, creating its own challenges. The bulk water infrastructure of South Africa, such as major dams and pipelines, contain elements of public goods as opposed to private goods. Therefore, it is open to failures in government and market driven allocations. Shortcomings in cost quantification or water pricing techniques and problems with allocating exclusive property rights can lead to uncultured costs and benefits, disincentivising efficient water use. The pursuit of individual interests can thus lead to socially inappropriate outcomes. Water prices fail to reflect the scarcity of the resource and value of externalities implicitly loosen the resource. Further, the subsidisation of water prices has undermined the maintenance of water infrastructure and the protection of water resources. However, adjusting prices is not a simple matter and must be done cognisant of income disparities. Essentially, what he is saying is that water is still too cheap. While these characteristics give water a unique role in the economy, they also complicate its management. This means that strategies for sustainable water use need to engage all sectors in the economy and spheres of humanity. This situation demands an integrated approach towards managing the resource and effective stakeholder dialogue. In post-apartheid South Africa, the political and social context must be filtered into resource allocation decisions, adding to the complexity.

Dr de Lange spoke to a map depicting the spread of water resources, noting that the Johannesburg and Pretoria area are dry meaning water needs to be transported. There are some water deposits near Cape Town and Durban, but Bloemfontein is also dry. This indicates that the factories of water are quite far from the centres where it is used, meaning transportation of water becomes important. However, transportation is expensive. South Africa’s water infrastructure is old, but well developed for a developing country. It could be argued that this created a perceived sense of water security. The economies of scale made sense in the past, because there were more water development options available. This almost false sense of security has created a lack of appreciation of the strategic importance of the resource. The political events of the past 20 years have seen major adjustments in the objectives and organisational structure of government. This has led to a pertinent thrust towards decentralisation of management. In an effort to improve efficiency, operational maintenance action was allocated to local government, municipalities and water boards. Moving towards an integrated water management has increased public participation, which is a good thing. Dependency, sustainability, efficiency and equity emerged as central concepts. A systems based approach and expanded decision-making context for strategic water management started to emerge. Slowly the complexity of the resource began to filter up to key decision makers which is good on one hand, but the next step is where to from here.

Dr de Lange then spoke to a table depicting the annual rainfall and distribution per sector. He noted that water which falls as rain is not the water which comes out of taps, because there are built in services which costs money. The right or the privilege of having running water has to be paid for by someone. While we must acknowledge the right to water, the services behind that are not free. Although this does not necessary mean that the person using the water will have to pay for the service, because it can be a cost to society. It interesting to note that agriculture’s share of the total usable water was roughly 70% in the 1960s, but decreased to roughly 60% last year and continues decreasing. The total use grew by approximately 3%, until roughly 2000 after which the total demand has grown less than 2%. The main reason for this is because viable water supply options have become very hard to find and demand site management approaches were employed rigorously to curb growth in demand and increase the efficient use of water. South Africa basically began to run out of bulk water supply options.

Dr de Lange, on how to manage water, said there are two aspects which cannot be separated. One is the management of the resource itself, called adaptation management. This is divided into strategies to manage demand and strategies to manage supply. The other important side of water management is the quality, because it makes no sense to provide polluted water. Focusing on demand side management approaches, he said these focus on improving the coordination of water resource management, enhancing the flexibility of dam and reservoir operations, distribution and management systems, and the adoption of new methods. Its aim is to promote the efficient use of water and perhaps realise savings in order to postpone the need for capital intensive supply options, such as big dams. This is especially important when funds are limited. An example of a demand site management approach is the strategic tariff structures found in the block tariff structure where different uses are billed differently; certain volumetric uses are billed on a particular tariff structure. Improved maintenance of infrastructure, importantly leak detection; rebates for the installation of water efficient fittings; pressure regulation; user education are important aspects of demand side approaches. More efficient metering is important, because we cannot manage what we cannot meter. Water markets, which will be spoken about later, are where the economics feature more strongly. These approaches typically have shorter pay back periods than supply augmentation schemes, which add to their attractiveness.

Dr de Lange turned to supply side, which kick in where demand side approaches have reached their limit, because one can only become so efficient before the need to expand water supply. The most common option in South Africa, like the rest of the world is the construction of new large storage dams. However, viable options for new dams are starting to run out and alternative supply augmentation strategies will have to be looked into such as the revitalisation of current dams. While the storage capacity of dams decreases over time, it is expensive to clean dams. As the cost of supply increases, the cost of cleaning becomes reasonable in comparison to the construction of new dams. Recycling to potable standard, as Members know we are still using drinking quality water for many non-drinking uses. This creates scope to recycle water to potable standards. There is also the concept of desalination, where the problem is that this is an energy hungry process and South Africa still uses dirty energy to drive such processes. It is a stop gap option for localised areas in need and the technology is there. Alien vegetation control has been underway for a number of years and CSiR has done a lot of work to quantify the levels. Members know that alien vegetation is thirsty in comparison to indigenous plants and this has been a fairly successful project. Inter-basin and trans-country transfer schemes are also an option including importing water from the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African countries. The last option is the virtual water argument, where the idea is to focus on importing water hungry products from countries which have more water than South Africa. The snag obviously being that these must be paid for.

Dr de Lange turned to water quality management, saying it is important because the quality directly affects the fitness for use, which in turn decreases the opportunity cost, because the more polluted water is the less you can do with it. Further, more must be invested into the water to make it useable. Curating water quality was to him almost the elephant in the room threatening water supply in South Africa. There is a direct correlation between decrease in quality and supply of water, because supply of polluted water is counterproductive. Pollution prevention has proven to be more cost effective than pollution treatment, meaning that doing restoration early is better to prevent pollution, sedimentation and erosion, rather than putting in expensive man made filtration systems to get rid of sedimentation and ecoli. Water pollution permits are also an economic instrument which do not feature much in South Africa, but could play a significant role in preventing pollution in the future.

Dr de Lange moved to economic instruments and where economics fit in. People are all economic entities in and of themselves and these must not be thought of as figures. A lot of psychology goes into economics and it speaks to the way we make trade-offs. Several economic instruments could be applied to the allocation and quality management of water. These instruments are categorised as either market or non-market driven. Typically allocation management from the demand side would be tradable use rights, where one would sell the right to use water. Supply side approaches for the market include strategic pricing. Non-market approaches would be rebates for water efficient appliances or use based taxes or levies. Quality management market approaches would include the pollution permits and non-market approaches would be pollution taxes. After the amendments to the National Water Act in 1998, it became possible to sell the right to use water on one’s land, without selling the land itself. Space was created for this to happen, but it did not happen on a large scale, mostly because the institutional structures were not in place. These are highly complex and still evolving, which has resulted in lost opportunities. Still the water market can provide transparent and fair reallocations between users, cities or metros, through buying water from rural areas. Systematic reallocation of water from urban to rural areas, could cause tensions in future if not governed carefully.

Dr de Lange moved on to the implications for NDP Vision 2030, saying the most important thing is that the resource needs to be managed based on scarcity principles. This means a balance between effectiveness, efficiency, equity and sustainability. The easiest way to understand the difference between effectiveness and efficiency, is that effectiveness speaks to whether the right things is being done; while efficacy speaks to doing things the best way. It does not make sense to do the wrong thing the optimal way, therefore first focus on what is to be done and then on how best to do it. CSiR has found many strategies which are highly efficient, but focus on the wrong thing. The recommendation was first to consider substitution, to improve effectiveness. For example substitute some cooling, cleaning or sanitation uses with innovative water substitutes. Why do we use water of drinking quality for sanitation, cleaning or cooling, because it is a waste. The engineer will say it is impossible to design separate distribution systems, because it will be too costly. But the economist will counter cost to whom and is it really costly over the long term. As an economist, he maintained that it does not make sense to do the wrong thing, rather first consider what is the right objective. Even if the correct thing is done in a sub-optimal way it is better. Once the substitutions have been done for effectiveness then one can optimise for efficiency. There is however the Jevons paradox, where if efficiency is sought relentlessly, then this could increase the demand for water. This is possible and happened in Britain with the coal question. It is simply because efficiency gains may decrease the amount of water used or do more with the same volume of water, but either way water becomes less expensive. A balance will have to be found between driving for efficiency and becoming too efficient. The other problem with high efficiency is that a highly efficient system has little room to manoeuvre and respond to an external shock like the present drought. This forces economies to scale back to absorb the decreased water supply.

Dr de Lange said Members could consider virtual water as a supply augmentation strategy. We can supplement water supply on by focusing on water hungry imports. Why should South Africa focus on producing items which are water hungry, when they can simply be bought. The question could be asked why should there be a big irrigation sector in South Africa. To base a sector on a highly scarce resource is risky, while acknowledging the political factors around food security. South Africa simply does not have a competitive advantage when it comes to water, as it is a semi-arid country. He noted that South Africa lags far behind when it comes to value derived per cubic litre of water at roughly $27. Botswana for example drives $80-$90 per cubic litre of water. Pollution prevention provides a cheaper solution than water treatment and a focussed effort is required to implement such measures. For example a pollution permit in certain catchments, which has never been done is South Africa. This was done in Australia with great success and why could it not be done here. Pollution is very costly to reverse and there are huge acid mine drainage problems in South Africa, eating away at the usable water sources. The theory behind the pollution permit system is sound and it is only the implementation side of things which must be monitored. This is one of the best economic instruments, because it drills down to the individual who pays for a right to pollute. The market will allocate permits to those who can mitigate their pollution the most cheaply, first.

Dr de Lange said the drive for a greener economy has to account for inequalities, as a result of apartheid. There are backlogs in basic water and sanitation service provision, which has a draining effect on momentum. This cannot be wished away, because it is a reality. It does not make sense to have some sectors of the economy moving towards a greener economy while other lag behind. This means cross subsidisation is inevitable.

Dr de Lange moved on to the remaining challenges, some of which are focuses of the CSiR. There is still a need for research around implementing different economic incentives for saving water, specifically the water markets and pollution permits. South Africa is lagging behind in implementing economic instruments. The question of how to change water utilisation behaviour, to help in the transition to the green economy also presents a major knowledge gap. People need to change the way they use water, because everyone needs water and the population is still increasing. Work will need to go into figuring how to get into peoples’ heads that they need to save water. It is small things and old messages, but there is still very little being done. Water valuation footprinting needs to be done for different sectors and value chains. A lot of work has been done on water valuation in South Africa, but the problem is that this is very context specific. So a valuation will be done for a specific industry in a specific region and one cannot extrapolate on that, simply because the local circumstances are so different. Lastly, minimise leakages, because not only are we wasting water, but it is lost income as no one is being billed for that. His take home message was that the current role of economic instruments in South Africa was very limited and there is scope for the trading of water use rights and pollution permits.

The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Water Affairs. He asked how much water is being used per day, in total in South Africa. So that he could get a sense of the current demand. The Department is doing some of the things mentioned, such as the ‘War on Leaks’ programme and he would like to hear more information as time goes on. Some research mentioned would be the type of information which the Members would have a keen interest in, such as the book written by the CSiR.

Ms M Khawula (EFF), through a translator, said as the municipalities do not follow the principles for the green economy and water conservation, there are places which have water leaking unattended for long periods. There is dirt and rubble thrown into the rivers causing disease. The same is true of poor sanitation facilities, she knew of places in Durban such as Cato Crest and Mayville where families stay near raw sewage. People there also have flats, but they do not have toilets. Lastly she wanted to know whether it is still possible to draw water from mountains as people used to in the past.

Mr L Basson (DA) said there are two aspects Dr de Lange mentioned which have a domino effect in our water chain. First, is the prevention of pollution which is a major problem in South Africa. He would like to know whether research has been done on how to prevent this. Policing has not worked, because we do not see fines where the polluters pay and there needs to be a mind-set change here. This has a knock on effect downstream with the cost of cleaning the water increasing and he would like to hear Dr de Lange’s opinion. The second domino effect is that our storage capacity in dams is limited. The cleaning of dams and revitalising the current storage capacity should be a priority. He could not say whether the figures are correct, but to use Hartebeespoort dam as an example, 40% is taken up by waste products. He did not know how to clean it, because the dam was built with a way to open a sluice at the bottom to let it out. Focussing on those two will allow the storage capacity to increase, without the need to build more dams. But it is not just dams, but reservoirs in municipalities which are not cleaned regularly. He would like more insight into how to implement this, because this could save government a lot of money. Although people often think we need to build more dams, by regularly cleaning them our water capacity could increase. His biggest concern was preventing pollution, before it had to be cleaned.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said Dr de Lange had mentioned the issue of pollution, but how far reaching is the problem and in which areas is it prevalent. Further, what advice could he give on the matter. Secondly, on adaptation to climate change, what advice can be given on saving water.

The Chairperson said there is a programme called ‘Working for Water’ which deals with alien vegetation. Granted the Department of Environmental Affairs is dealing with the issue, it directly impacts on the water governance space. He continually had concerns about how the relationship between these two departments is to function, because alien vegetation uses water needed elsewhere. Secondly, on the separation of water ownership from land he was curious about the rationale behind this move. Lastly, related to his question on the average daily demand for water, he asked what the average cost of water per litre was.

Dr de Lange, on water quality, said polluted water is less useful than unpolluted water, but we talk as if all water is the same. We need to be clear about the built in services associated with water, which relate directly to availability and quality. Everyone is free to take a bucket to a stream to collect water and the cost associated to that is one’s time and effort. The reticulation system is designed to save people that time and effort, but that costs money. This is a basic building block of economic development, because you need to have basic services in place before the people have their time freed up to become productive. This led to bulk infrastructure development, but the problem is that once this is there, it needs to be operated efficiently and maintained. It is normal that government has limited resources and almost unlimited needs. This means it becomes a game of trade-offs and balance, between different needs. However, not all uses of water are needs and these uses would not be a human right, for example, a swimming pool is a luxury use of water. The problem is that it is distributed by the same distribution network. This brings you back to the engineering problem. An engineer will say we will not run out of water, because we can just de-salinate. While this is physically possible, who is going to pay for this? This brings forward what the tension between what is technically possible and what is politically or operationally plausible. This tension determines what is implemented on the ground. Overlaying this is efficiency, because it is one thing to say fix all leakages but to implement that in an efficient way is a different story. The CSiR is not involved in implementation and is more concerned with an advisory role.

Going back to pollution of dams, costs are what determines what happens and when. We can clean our dams, but at what cost. Some calculations have been done and these show that it is still not the most cost effective solution and there are other options before that. It is all a matter of scarcity and there is a list of other options which can be looked at before we need to clean our dams. Hartebeespoort is a good example of something which will be quite expensive, simply because of how the dam was built, dredging will have to be done. Whether it is the best option is debatable. He hoped that he had communicated in the slide show, that the scope for South Africa to build new bulk supply solutions is limited. There is Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Project and a few stop gap options in the Eastern Cape. However, the problem with Eastern Cape water is that the bulk of the demand is in Gauteng which will lead to transport costs. These costs will have to be compared with other options closer to the demand point.

On adaptation to climate change, this is an extremely big field and the CSiR has an entire competency field in this area. Assuming that it is real, different sectors will respond to the challenges differently and this is one of the big drivers of the green economic pathway. How to make your systems and sectors more resilient is important. You need to discuss specific strategies for adaptation in the context of a specific sector. Sectors which are highly dependent on water will be further down the pathway to adapting to climate change. This is not necessarily true, as seen in the major problems with agriculture currently. One of the CSiR’s chief climatologists argued that the drought is undoubtedly caused by climate change. The bottom line is that the weather patterns are volatile and every sector will require its own adaptation strategy. CSiR has done work in this sphere, with the insurance industry for example. Insurers face huge losses due to floods, heat and hail with an increase in claims and therefore they are anxious to reduce costs.

On the separation of water and land use rights, the idea was simply to provide more flexibility in increasing the efficiency of water/land use. This is simply because water flows but land does not. There are areas where there is a surplus of water, which could be considered as the water factories in the country, where all the water cannot be used. In these areas the owners of the land would sit on the water, to ensure their supply. The National Water Act started to toy with a use it or lose it concept, because we do not have enough water to save it for a rainy day. This is also an inefficient answer and the idea of separating water and land use rights came to the fore. This would make it possible to sell part of one’s water use rights to a neighbour. The problem was that the institutional structures required for that transaction lagged behind and a lot of work is required to resolve these transactional protocols.

On the average use of South Africa, he could not answer, but had provided use of different sectors’ and usage groups demand over a year. This is such a big variable and comes back to the argument for water footprinting. There is a huge need for different industries to have more accurate water footprinting assessments. Some industries are moving towards water footprinting and accounting for the amount of water used in producing a product. It is not mandatory currently, but the theory behind it is there. Particularly as water footprinting is the basis for the entire virtual water trade argument. You cannot engage on this if you do not know how much water different industries are using. There are lots interesting calculations on how much water various products require, but most of these are not in the South African context. South African Breweries has done a lot of work on water footprinting for a bottle of beer. He would say there is a need to do water footprinting for our major commodities which are water hungry products. The average cost per litre does not exist, because different users use different kinds of water and pay different rates. An irrigation farmer buys water from an irrigation board, which has fewer built in services compared to an average end user. To start averaging this out is to start comparing different things. Per user group, he would say water is still underpriced, because of the huge subsidisation of the cost. People do not pay the full price for the built in services, mainly based on the human rights argument. Some use of services must be subsidised by other users, because it is simply not fair to have everyone pay the same amount for water. Therefore, cross subsidisation structures need to fill the gaps.

The Chairperson said some of the questions will be followed up with the Department later.

Ms Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, thanked Dr de Lange for the presentation and said what is before the Committee gives her comfort, because it is a confirmation of the scientific evidence informing the work the ministry does. What CSiR has is not necessarily far from the diagnostic done by the Water Research Commission and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). It would help if people involved with research appreciated what is being done, because it is important to talk about this as well. She fully agreed with the need for redistribution and urged for an understanding that a key element of ‘separate development’ had been water distribution and allocation. As she spoke historically post-1994 there has not been a plan to deal with the promotion of equality in water distribution throughout the country. Further, there was the vibrant constitution which threw in the issues of water access and water as a free basic service, requiring immediate attention. This as a means of promoting reconciliation and unity among South Africans and she thought policy makers and legislators need to understand what came post 1994. There was no plan, but there was the primary unifying document being the Constitution and in it the right to free basic services. She echoed Dr de Lange’s sentiment that the original infrastructure was intended to cater for less than 20% of the population and now it has to provide for the entire population. In the meantime there was enthusiasm around rolling out other infrastructure. Former Minister Kader Asmal did a lot regarding using what exists and reaching out to the unserved. That requires acknowledgment, because aside from the drought, we are at 85% provision.

Challenges remain in quality of water and sustainability. What has been raised about the remaining challenges by Dr de Lange is spot on, particularly on decentralisation. What is being done is reviewing the two pieces of legislation including the water service authorities and the capacity of local government regarding the current Water Act. Government can say on the basis of the scientific reports that these are the things which it is working on.

The third issue is the enormous level of pollution of water in South Africa. It cannot simply be attributed to poor management, because the realities of rapid urbanisation and unplanned development lead people to be near the water sources and directly contribute to contamination. As issues of effective management are dealt with there are other realities which must be taken account of. So what is needed? Good urban governance by municipalities, the enforcement of bylaws and preventative measures such as the ‘adopt a river’ programme. What the CSiR is presenting relates to those issues, but it is not only the water sector which can help in this regard. Hence the importance of partnership. The role of the private sector has been vast in dealing with water issues.

She liked the comments about some of the big water users, who are already part of the Strategic Water Partnership Network, which has been embraced by the UN as an innovative measure by South Africa. As water users themselves begin to self-regulate. We need to deal with behavioural change in the agriculture sector and she was interested in the idea that more efficiency may not necessarily drop the amount of water used. She felt we need to guard against imports to substitute what we cannot produce given the water challenges. Her take was that there is a need to adapt and look at alternative food products which we can produce. This is so that we do not create a high dependency on import markets, because that will lead to non-affordability. It is an option to bring innovative solutions and alternative crops which South Africa can produce without compromising the nutrition and quality of our staple diet. We cannot write off importation, but agrarian reform needs to happen and beneficiaries of land restitution need to be productive. An aspect of them becoming productive is the issue of water rights, because while they can now access the land they do not have the right to water on that land. Therefore, one has to give capacity and a basket of rights to the beneficiaries of land restitution beyond simply owning the land. Then people do not have to trade with people who hold water licences. These policy options definitely have to be investigated.

Lastly, it is important to note that augmentation has been a priority and aside from the war on leaks, there are investments going into infrastructure. South Africa has augmentation projects such as the big Umkomazi water project and the Lower Orange River project both which are at the feasibility stage. Currently, there is Phase Two of the Lesotho Highlands Water project, which has been able to help municipalities in the Eastern Cape and the pipeline which used to go straight to Gauteng deviates into other communities. This is because the idea behind the project used to be the economic hub, not about water, to deal with the impoverished provinces. We are working with neighbouring countries on the Zambezi water scheme. She encouraged talking more about innovation, because it could make the turnaround for underdeveloped sectors and even bring about new industries. She would rather phrase this as something which can no longer be shied away from, than a burden. Particularly as the one size fits all approach used about the technologies used for provision of services has proven to be very costly and rigid.

In view of water scarcity in South Africa, can we continue to develop infrastructure which is highly dependent on high volumes of water. An analysis in Johannesburg was done to see where water is being used and for what purpose. 46% of total water use in the Northern Suburbs was used for irrigating gardens and swimming pools. These things must be looked at and it should be asked whether grey water should not come in to fill this space. She fully agreed with the last four bullet points – these are the critical areas. Further, we need to invest more into research and capacitate our communities. Sanitation and water is critical, but as scientists have shown it is not all about flushing and how do you deal with behavioural change. This should be highlighted, because part of the obstacle to innovation is fear of the unknown. Another concern is the inability to manage and maintain these alternative solutions. Where government does not collect refuse, then people will use a toilet as a dustbin. Therefore, engagement needs to be had on waste management to ensure that people know that baby diapers do not belong in the toilet. She thanked Dr de Lange and agreed with the point on income lost through leaks.

The Chairperson said it should be possible in the course of the Committee’s work, that a panel could be created to inform it about the various interactions and the work done by CSiR. It has done a lot of work on sanitation innovation technologies and the Committee should have access to this. It may require tweaking the Committee’s programme, but it should be possible.

Ms Z Balindlela (DA) appreciated the presentation from CSiR, but was sorry that the Minister is now making a submission based on it. The Committee “has been dying to get” that from the Minister, but today because CSiR is coming with particular points Ms Mokonyane makes use of the opportunity to broaden scope. The Committee has been dying to know how they will link COP 17 and COP 21, but we are only hearing this for the first time. She was disappointed that the Minister is abusing this opportunity, when the Committee has wanted to meet with her for a long time. The Committee still needs the Ministry to present on these issues.

The Chairperson said this is the first time that an economist is in the session, particularly from CSIR. All that he had done was to open the session to the entire meeting, because the information will assist all present. Members should avoid a situation that will cause conflict and should continue to get along in a good spirit.

Ms Balindlela agreed, but said the Committee should have used the time to interact with CSiR more than listen to the Minister.

The Chairperson said she should have requested more information from the Department along certain lines, at a later date. There is still an opportunity to say in the coming sessions whether within this term the Department should be made to bring information along specific lines.

Ms Balindlela agreed, but reiterated that the Committee is dying to have the Minister present to it.

Minister Mokonyane said she would not allow Ms Balindlela to behave this way. Firstly, the Chairperson had invited the comments and she had done so, not make a presentation. The Ministry has presented on climate change and it was the Committee which has agreed that it is not to present today. It is not about the headline, it is about the work which is to be done. She respected Members, but the excitement and insinuations shows some of their levels. However, the Ministry would return.

Ms Balindlela said the Committee needs to hear from the Minister, because she is the leader of the institution.

Minister Mokonyane said she wants to show Ms Balindlela that the Ministry is driven by scientific research and not the cheap politicking of wanting to protect being the opposition. These matters should not be politicised. She was dealing with the mess Ms Balindlela left in the Eastern Cape, even today.

Ms Balindlela said the platform should not be abused.

The Chairperson said he did not think there had been any politicking, aside from what Ms Balindlela had said. He urged avoiding being at each other’s throats for no apparent reason.

Ms Balindlela said in Zulu we cannot listen to this “isidalwa” Deputy Minister.

The Minister, interpreting this to mean “crippled”, said that Ms Balindlela cannot call the Deputy Minister “isidalwa” and must withdraw this. This is also an insult to people living with disabilities and desperate attitudes will not take you anywhere. In Zulu, she said the Chairperson should not allow Ms Balindlela to respond again on the matter.

The Chairperson apologised to everyone present for the situation and said he felt this word was an insult.

Ms Balindlela said 20 minutes was taken by the Minister, abusing the time needed by Members to interact with Dr de Lange. Now the Minister had had her platform.

The Chairperson requested Ms Balindlela to apologise to the Deputy Minister.

Ms Balindlela said she could not withdraw, because culturally, the Deputy Minister knows what she meant. She would not withdraw, because it is not an insult.

Speaking in Zulu, the Chairperson said that Ms Balindlela had used an insulting word. 

Ms Balindlela said it is an appreciation of a younger person and any linguist could be asked. In Zulu, she said that the use of the word “isidalwa” was a sense of appreciation to the Deputy Minister.

The Chairperson said a Committee of Parliament cannot be run like this. It is the first time this is happening and Members have not stooped this low before.

In Zulu, the Minister said, “I would slap you”.

In Zulu, Ms Balindlela expressed shock that the Minister had said she would slap her and maintained that there was no one who could be slapped in this meeting.

The Chairperson asked how people are to learn from Ms Balindlela? He was trying to call her to order in a decent way.

Ms Balindlela said she was listening, but hoped the Chairperson was also listening to what the Minister was saying.

The Chairperson said he had heard what the Minister had said, but was still asking her to withdraw and apologise to the Deputy Minister.

Ms Balindlela said there had not been a negative insinuation in what she had said. The word is used about a person who one so respects.

The Chairperson said Ms Balindlela was aware that she was patronising the Deputy Minister and in Committee meetings, Members are referred to as honourable Member. He did not use that personally, but he would refer to a Member respectfully. The Committee has never been exposed to the usage of such a word in a Committee meeting, which borders on a number of unfortunate interpretations. Politics aside, everyone is present in the Committee as an adult and all that is being done is to try and bring sanity.

Ms Balindlela said she respected the Chairperson and wanted him to know she would withdraw.

The Chairperson asked for Ms Balindlela to apologise to the Deputy Minister for any possible misinterpretation.

Ms Balindlela apologised to Members who do not know the meaning of the term and who could have taken it as derogatory.

The Chairperson asked for the Minister to apologise for having threatened to slap Ms Balindlela. 

In Zulu, the Minister said there was no one that would be slapped in the meeting and apologised if she had been misconstrued in this regard.

The Chairperson apologised again and trusted it would not happen again. We all respect each other here and come to the meetings with the sole object of taking the country forward; representing the people with dignity. The hopes of South Africa regarding water and sanitation reside in the Committee and if this is not taken seriously the people out there who Members claim to represent will have their hopes dashed. He appealed to Members’ consciences, and trusted that this will not occur in the future.

Ms Maluleka said her only remaining query related to slide nine, around the trade-offs. Aside from initiatives towards the green economy, what recommendations would Dr de Lange make for creating different scenarios for water allocation – towards incorporating efficiency, as well as equitable and sustainable use of water?

Ms Khawula, through a translator, said to the Minister asked why houses in Ward 101 are built without water, toilets or electricity. Where there is plumbing it leaks continuously unattended. There is a councillor by the name of Mr Ngiba, in whose ward ground tanks are used by anyone. Many people misuse water, but when complaints are made to the municipalities nothing is done. She would make further efforts with this case and encouraged looking for water sources in mountains.

Ms H Kekana (ANC) said the President in his State of the Nation Address indicated that we are losing 7 billion cubic litres, but there is the War on Leaks programme. As people are being trained to handle the leaks, she wanted to know whether there is a way to measure the success of this intervention.

The Chairperson said the present session was for questions to the CSIR, but would allow Ms Khawula’s question to the Minister.

In Zulu, the Minister responded that municipalities are the ones who are responsible for the allocation of houses and then reach an agreement on how they would build a certain house. They are the ones who are responsible for the provision of subsidies, electricity, water and other basic necessities before any house is being built. In order to solve cases that are similar to Ward 101, the Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu has made it clear that the Department would not allow any housing plan that is provided by municipalities without additional funds allocated for toilets and access to water. She recommended that perhaps the Committee needed to have a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, so as to be able to discuss matters that are related to housing and water. The Committee should also meet with the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, so as to discuss why municipalities were struggling to deal decisively with water leakages. The Department was responsible for building dams or reservoirs that would reach the municipalities and therefore municipalities were responsible for water leakages. The former Minister of COGTA, Mr Pravin Gordhan, had introduced a programme that would be premised around the prevention of water leakages in municipalities, using the strategy of “Back to Basics”. The Department was planning to use water that is available from the mountains as a way of dealing with the rampant drought around the country, particularly in rural areas. 

In Zulu, Ms Khawula said that there are competent women in rural areas that are able to use groundwater for gardens and washing clothes. She pleaded that the Minister, as a woman should be in the forefront in the promotion of women’s rights.

The Chairperson said whenever the Committee is told about water scarcity and leakages; he always has the issue of theft of water at the back of his mind. Farmers steal water from the Vaal and Gariep Rivers and in many other places. This is water which is not paid for, but yet the Minster is supposed to be the custodian of all water. How do these two facts gel, because in his view water continued to be in private hands? He had asked a question on the separation of water use rights from land ownership and to put it bluntly, was this not required to embark on the land reform process? Before the handover of the land there was access to water run by cooperatives, but afterwards there is not. How could this be explained?

Dr de Lange said the way the CSiR understood the separation of water and land use rights, was to introduce flexibility and to enable the selling of the water use rights without having to sell the land. The implementation and consequences of this must be governed by a transactional protocol which is still not fully developed. A very important point which people tend to miss around farming is that there are a whole bunch of production factors in order to be successful, of which land and water are only two. The other very important one is the human production factor, which encompasses finances and knowledge, both of which are equally important. Therefore, a holistic and integrated approach is required in the high risk area of farming. Water and land are definitely essentials, but they are not the only factors required. Mention was made of water theft, but he had no idea of the volumes of water involved. It comes down to pumping schedules not being stuck to. This story comes back to efficiency and this is the role of the irrigation board or water use association. All water use should be registered with the Department of Water and Sanitation, whether users keep to their allocations is a monitoring question. The question of performance in the War Against Leaks, he did not know at present, but he could find out. The booklet he had tabled in the Committee listed different experts in water management and he felt it would be a good idea for the Committee to develop a list of questions which could either be researched or answered.

Ms Margret-Anne Diedricks, Director General Department of Water Affairs, said she did not want the Committee to leave with the impression that the issue of water trading is not contested. It has become a practice, water licence holders perceive that they have the right to trade it. Section 25 of the Act does not allow licence holders to trade in the rights. This has become a practice with agriculture specifically around irrigation. Reference is made to a temporary licence in the Act, where another user can temporarily make use of one’s licence on the same land. However, the holder is not trading with it. Unfortunately farmers have begun to sell water licences, but this is not a legal practice. The Department has sought senior counsel advice, because there was no doubt that if the industry had fallen into the practice there will be efforts to ensure it continues. The Department seeks to stop the practice and will clearly indicate what means must be used if you want to provide temporary relief while a licence is under consideration. She was unsure where the practice came from, but would move to stop the practice. It is logical that if the Minister is the custodian of water, licencees cannot act as if they own that water. This also muddies the issue of equity, where water has been allocated on a particular basis, while there is a need to deal with issues of land and agrarian reform. The Department will await the Chairperson’s invitation to respond to some of the matters raised in Dr de Lange’s presentation.

The Chairperson said he was a strong believer that something should be seen to be done. Where there is an example of such practice with a non-licenced holder using water or people stealing water, they should be arrested and made known to the public. He strongly believed that it was wrong that golf courses where everything is green, are made to pay a pittance. If this is done then South Africa will be seen to be moving forward in addressing the equity in water distribution. This can only come from the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation in collaboration with relevant departments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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