Vision for Water by 2030: National Planning Commission briefing

Water and Sanitation

31 August 2016
Chairperson: Mr L Johnson (ANC)

Meeting Summary

The National Planning Commission (NPC), in the presence also of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), presented the Water Security Plan for the country. The new approach was radical, integrated and mass balanced in nature and recognised that there was a need to consider all competing water requirements from all sectors, to look at water from neighbouring areas, rain precipitation and sea water desalination. The Water Security Plan would largely covered six thematic areas which were highlighted by the diagnostic report and delineated as critical for water security. The situation assessment covered subsystems such as natural resource systems, socio-economic systems, administrative and institutional systems and water and sanitation. The NPC would also base the plan on a National Water Security Vision, the water demand and supply situation, global change and adaptation to climate change, strategic infrastructure asset management, functionality, planning and development, an institutional and regulatory framework and human and institutional capacity.

In South Africa only about 35% of the water used could be captured and reused. Once people used water for irrigation and forestation it was not reusable, but 62% of water was allocated for irrigation and 3% for afforestation. The 35% was spread over urban and rural use, mining, industrial and power generation. Current legislation was only focused on the 35%, and this was a shortcoming, so that the NPC felt that there should be a paradigm shift, provoking more thinking about all use, placing more emphasis on planning into the future as well as addressing the current needs. thinks into the future and ensure that the here and now is aligned at all times. There must be urgent attention paid to the deconstruction and reconfiguration of models upon which previous analyses had been based.

The Chairperson commented that there was nothing new in the presentation and the NPC agreed that much of this had been discussed before, but the focus would shift. A key theme throughout the meeting related to water ownership but the NPC asked that it be allowed to address this question in a completely separate session. Other questions related to how the NPC planned to help with dilapidating water infrastructure, water pollution, the NPC constitutional mandate, how the NPC and DWS would sort out issues of water silting, the construction of small dams and a switch to technological innovation for irrigation. It was made clear that there would be a master plan for drought but Members asked how the NPC was dealing with Richards Bay and questioned why water desalination plants there had been imported rather than locally constructed. It was stressed that not only were short term solutions needed, but there had to be water security over the next 10 to 30 years. Issues of spatial justice were also raised and the NPC conceded that it would still need to go to the Executive to raise those particular issues. The DWS added some comments and said that the challenge overall – whether speaking of small or large dams – was lack of funding. DWS was now looking into silting strategies when it realised that many of the existing dams were compromised. 

Meeting report

Water Security Plan: National Planning Commission (NPC) briefing
The Chairperson noted apologies from the Minister and Acting Director General of Water and Sanitation.

Ms Nolwazi Gasa, Deputy Director General, Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, said that the executive had tasked the National Planning Commission (NPC) with developing a water sector plan for the country. The plan was primarily intended to address the transformative role that the water sector would be able to play, the socio-economic impact that could be derived if water supply and use was properly planned, and to mitigate the current drought.  The NPC would speak to the key issues on the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Medium Term Strategic Programme. This was not to be seen as “government's plan” but as a broad societal plan. The collaboration between the NPC and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) was  focused on articulating the potential bottlenecks, to try to avert the type of situation that the energy sector was facing. There was also a call for regional cooperation and implications for leveraging work in that regard.

Mr Percy Sechemane, Commissioner of the National Planning Commission (NPC), presented the water plan prepared by the NPC. The NPC and other sector entities were tasked to put together a master plan for the sectors which focused on the long term handling of situations such as drought.     Water is an unpredictable product but people expect predictability in that when they opened taps they expected water to come out. The focus of the NPC was on the thematics of the master plan, what was to be included, and how every state entity fitted in to the plans.

The NPC still had a lot of work to do, as it had not engaged with the DWS at a comprehensive level and previous engagements had not yet produced a complete plan of action. The focus of the NPC is on water security. The balance between drinking water and human well-being was based on nature and ecosystems, the latest hazards and climate change and economic activities and development. The NPC was looking at addressing particular issues around these areas.

The NPC had developed a diagnosis report. The work that was completed by the first Commission focused on the state of the water situation in the country, and compared it to the plans that the sector had. Despite the gaps this was a very useful document and a lot of value could be derived from it. The NPC had studied that report and established 6 key thematic areas of:
1) water demand and supply situation
2) impact of climate change
3) infrastructure asset management and functionality
4) infrastructure planning and development
5) institutional and regulatory framework
6) human and institutional capacity.

He said that the hydrologic, socio-economic and future environment determined water security in the country. It did not help the NPC to look only at a short term view. The Executive had instructed the NPC to come up with a long-term plan which looked at the bigger picture and established if there was likely to be water security in the country in the next 10 to 30 years.

The NPC had decided to put together a framework.  One of the challenges the NPC faced was that it did not have a Minister fully responsible for the total value chain. It had to develop a plan that encompassed all key entities. For instance, when speaking of regulations, there also had to be consideration of oversight, whether norms and standards were enough or whether there should also be regulation so that the Minister or Parliament could have oversight.

In looking to the global situation, he noted that Africa was very disadvantaged. About 80% of the water in Africa evaporates because of the weather. The first point was to establish how much water there was in the country and how much of that water could be retained. The studies done by the DWS had established that around 65% of water was used for irrigation, and that raised questions as to whether the right techniques for irrigation were being used. South Africa was still using pivot points for irrigation, which resulted in water being lost.

In South Africa, that left about 35% of the water which could be captured and reused because it could not be captured once used for irrigation. NPC had focused in the past on the reclamation of water through sanitation, but it now realised that it would have to look at the percentages being lost and how those could be dropped.

On a regional level, the South African Development Community’s (SADC’s) mainland mean annual rainfall distribution reflected variations, with the driest parts in the extreme southern areas. Questions asked by the NPC had included whether the rainfall was sufficient, how South Africa fared against other countries, what was the potential for outsourcing water, and soil. South Africa did not have a lot of water and the plan thus focused on how South Africa could get water from the other areas which had a lot of water. Discussions and plans in the bigger space should be looking at this.

Southern Africa had about 15 river basins, which were shared by at least two countries. There were 280 million people, but 40% had no access to adequate safe drinking water and 60% had no access to adequate sanitation. Of the 50 million hectares irrigable land, only 7% was currently irrigated. For the NPC the issue of water was not only to do with the country but also the region. Food security and economic development needed adequate amount of water.

He spoke to South Africa’s water overview, noting that South Africa had an uneven spatial distribution and seasonality of rainfall, in that 43% of rainfall fell on 13% of the land. Of the 50 billion cubic meters of water available, only 14 billion cubic metres, or about 28% of water was available for use through dams, basin transfers and other resource developments throughout the country. The South African water overview was aligned to the global overview. He repeated that the country was losing much water through evaporation. The NPC was looking at how to sort out problems in the long run such as water shortages in traditional agriculture areas such as North West. The NPC had to consciously make a decision on how to transfer water from one end of the country to the other.

The Chairperson asked for an illustration of what 50 billion cubic metres of water looked like.

Mr Sechemane said that it was very difficult to illustrate that. He added that the kind of technology the country was using was looking at the quantities available. Technology was things from an abundance point of view. And the technology was not aligned to the requirements at this particular point in time. In previous meetings with the Department, the DWS had said that currently the demand for water was at 13 billion cubic metres, and was growing, which meant that the country was not going to have sufficient water to meet the demands.

There was still room for improvement with regard to how water was managed. Over 60% of small towns rely on ground water. This was very important when looking at drought-stricken areas, because the tendency was in times of no rain that people would want to drill more bore holes, without taking account of other areas which were also dependent on ground water. The drilling of bore holes with no comprehensive plan had the potential to disadvantage others.

The jury was still out on how comprehensive and up to date the information was. The NPC believed that the situation on the ground could be actually far worse. He repeated that 62% of water was allocated for irrigation, 3% for afforestation, leaving 35% for urban and rural use, mining, industrial and power generation. There was clearly room for improvement in management of water in all sectors .
The NPC took the view that it had three choices:
- to do nothing and allow natural water progression
- a radical paradigm shift by reducing 98% of water allocation and planning to 68%
- a complete stop, and reconfiguration in line with long term needs.

It decided that the plan at national level must provoke forward thinking, whilst ensuring that current demands and supply are met. Urgent attention must be paid to  the deconstruction and reconfiguration of models upon which incorrect analyses have been based. The NPC wanted to re-define the end state of the sector with a radical view, to address the spatial equity and examine why there are gaps between policy and legislation on one hand and the implementation on the other.

He made the point that some of the points had been made in the past, but were never brought to operation. Systems and processes needed to be compatible with goals. There should be a specific focus on poor quality, quantity and relevance of data, poor regulation and enforcement, reform and transformation of water institutions not fully implemented, lack of integration and common goals, lack of accountability and unclear roles and responsibilities, and having sufficient legislation but poor implementation and decision making.

He added that the plan must focus on national priorities, which included meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and international obligations under the Africa Development Agenda. The plan needed to be simplified and properly timed to    track progress and identify areas needing  intervention, built upon local, regional, provincial and national needs. Integration would provide high level direction and would further demand accountability from all spheres of Government.

The overall approach was integrated. It took into account the natural phenomena, and also considered  all competing water requirements from all sectors. It looked at water from neighbouring areas, rain precipitation and sea water desalination, which were key points for the longer term also. South Africa was not land-locked yet still needed to consider issues of shared basins and rain precipitation. There was a lot of potential water that could be utilised, but the question was whether the country was doing enough investigation into desalination as a potential way to get water. The approach also included spatial planning to break the apartheid geopolitical legacy.

The expected outcomes included radical change, better technological advancements and greater water governance. Allocations for irrigation use must be reformed and structured, to be informed by the quantified livelihood benefits per volume allocated, from basic services to livelihood and economic development levels. This would not be limited to employment created, but would also look at revenue from produce, food security, the efficiency achieved in the water use index and the contribution to GDP. Water has no substitute and is thus a finite commodity that must be preserved and protected for the future generations, so that planning for it is central to and connected to every other programme.

Mr Sechemane said that the DWS and NPC should not focus only on the 15 to 20 year projects, costing between R5 billion and R30 billion. It was possible to finance smaller water projects of 25-30 million cubic metre dams, at no more than R1 to1.5 billion, to serve a district, and these projects could be completed within four or five years.  Smaller dam development was vital. The water demands were present now, and projects would take a long time to construct. NPC believed that there was still room for big projects, but smaller ones needed to be looked at too.

The planning for water security had several key components, such as the  national resource systems (NRS), the socio-economic system (SES), administrative and individual system (AIS), processes,  institutional tools and mechanisms, the water and sanitation services and water information and knowledge.

He said that the plan was based on several key principles, including :
- a holistic approach that considered entire water cycles from source to sea and back
- reflecting key elements of end-to-end water value chain capture
- intellectual capital associated with full value chain
- the institutional framework to be finalised within the shortest possible time
- a “mass balance” approach to account for every drop,
- continuous improvement of risk identification and bottlenecks
- decisions to be supported by reliable data and empirical evidence
- moving away from the situation where many things had been started and few completed.

In the past, there was no entity accountable for the end to end value chain and what needed to happen. It was very important to break down the value chain in order to understand who was responsible for what along the whole chain, what kind of investments were being made, and who attended to each function.

From an institutional point of view, everything needed to start at the local level and work right through to national level. This ran through from community to city, metro, catchment regional, and national master plan level. There was a need for real information from the bottom, coming up, and he illustrated this by noting what an effective municipality would need to know at all ends of the scale.

In South Africa it was very important to consider all the linkages in infrastructure, resilience and sustainability, and knowledge capital and information. Water was also determined by regulation, allocations and authorisation.

He spoke to availability, and said that although the country was already adept at moving water, the actual amount available to move was not sufficient. It had to start looking at other sources now, even I it knew that demand would not happen in that area until the future. South Africa's growth in water needs were determined by time, certain assumptions, natural and anthropogenic risks, geopolitical movement, historical background and vulnerability.

For interventions, NPC looked at the whole cycle, ranging through demand and supply management, environmental flows management, water use management, institutional arrangements and financial flows.    They focused on human capital development and improved knowledge economy, institutional reorganisation for better implementation across the whole value chain, a conducive and enabling regulatory environment, judicious investment in monitoring, assessment and information, a systematic approach to infrastructure development, finding the links, and appropriate funding and financing.

The Water Security Plan was a work in progress, and NPC was working with the DWS and other key affected entities to ensure that it would be successful.

The Chairperson noted that these points had previously been made by the DWS but it was clear that there had been better collaboration between the departments. He said that water as a product and water as a commodity were two different things, and clarity was needed how the NPC saw water. Water as a commodity had a lot of ideological connotations, including the commercialisation of water, and who owned the water. He commented that international cooperation was needed and the Committee would need to interact with Members of Parliament in Lesotho on water projects. He wondered if the country had water safety and security over the next 15 years.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) suggested that the next presentation by the NPC could hopefully be in her mother tongue. She asked what was being done about people who were drinking dirty water, sharing water with animals and what was happening in areas where water was unavailable, such as Jozini, Umkhanyakude, Mkhondo and Newcastle. In Durban there had been a lot of rainfall two weeks ago, and she wondered why people could not be given tanks to collect rainwater. She asked why international councils and municipalities did not get along, and why the programme on the preservation of water could not be re-established. She wondered why South Africa could not pump in sea-water and render it fit to drink. She said that there was no relationship between the chiefs and the municipalities, and this was at great cost to the community. The chiefs knew about the problems but did not pass the information on.

Mr N Shelembe (NFP) asked about infrastructure asset management and functionality. Municipalities always complained of dilapidated water infrastructure, with water leaks and water wastage. Since most municipalities had project management units, he wondered how often did the NPC communicate with these units and whether they were well capacitated to ensure that the infrastructure was properly looked after. He wondered if NPC had any plans to ensure that infrastructure planning and development was maintained, even when staff changed.

Mr L Basson (DA) said that the problem with the NPC's    bottom up approach was that the municipalities did not have capacity to draft up water plans. He thought the DWS had drafted a plan and filtered it down to municipalities, who had to align their plans to the national plan. When speaking to the water value chain, the Green Drop report of 2014 had looked at 824 waste water treatment plants. These plants released 5 000 mega litres of sewerage per day into a system which was designed for 6 500 mega litres, which left the country with only a 22% capacity. Most of the country's sewerage plants were running either on capacity or over capacity, and 84% of sewerage plants were either in a critical, high or medium risk categories This meant that only 16% of plants releasing water in the river streams were aligned to the Green Drop report. There was a need to stop the source of pollution.

Mr P Chauke (ANC) asked who controlled water in the country. He asked the NPC to deal with the constitutional mandate of DWS, and how this linked to the role of the municipalities. He asked at what level the NPC and DWS consultations took place, and what exactly was the role of the NPC in helping the Department to come up with a national plan. He asked if the NPC had assessed the kind of human capacity that was available. In relation to the percentage of water being put to agriculture, he asked what monitoring mechanism was used by the NPC, and what had informed the 3% figure for the consumption of water by mining.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) asked if there was a database of water and sanitation infrastructure resources at national and local level. He asked how the previous commissioners were working without a plan. He asked if NPC included the provinces with more water in the current plan, whether the plan covered construction of small dams, and whether this information was shared with the DWS. He did not see anything particularly radical about the plan, and he was also worried that international relations with Angola, Namibia and DRC may have included water distribution, and he wondered how South Africa would be able to assist countries to transport water to their neighbours.

The Chairperson asked if South Africa could learn and adopt some of the irrigation technologies which were used in dry countries, and said this was very urgent. Last time the Committee heard from the Department, it was told that the legislation which was looking at equitable distribution of water resources could only likely to be introduced in 2018, and he asked for an update and said that he did not know what the problems were in getting this to Parliament now to ensure that equitable distribution of water resources could happen now.

Mr Sechemane said there should be a clear understanding that there was the Executive and multiple departments who had different responsibilities. The mandate of the NPC was hard to unpack and NPC did not want to get into spaces where other entities have mandates. The mandate of the NPC spoke to advising Cabinet, the President and even Parliament and working closely with different departments. It all came down to the allocation of funds. People said the NPC needed to do certain functions but the allocation of funds went elsewhere.

He agreed with the Chairperson that there was nothing new in what the NPC was talking about; everybody knew what the problems were, but the real issue was implementation. NPC had to take a radical approach because  no one wanted to change anything. If everyone did their part, the country would not be in this situation.

NPC was responsible for ensuring that the DWS did what it had to do, and the DWS was also responsible for ensuring that municipalities do what they have been mandated to do. The country had brilliant legislation, but implementation was lacking.

The NPC understood that water was both a commodity and a natural resource. The NPC had asked whether water affairs were sitting at the right level of the national agenda. Water was at the centre of everything. In relation to predictability his statement of "water as an unpredictable product" the emphasis was on the unpredictable nature of water and rainfall, although demand stayed the same or increased. The real question was how the NPC and DWS could ensure that water was available. International interaction was largely based on engagements.

Jozini and Newcastle issues arose out of spatial planning issues and NPC needed to promote spatial justice with the executive, for it must be questioned why people here were drinking dirty water. If oversight was properly done the issues should not arise. DWS had to work faster, to avoid these situations persisting. The structure dictated that local government got the funds and traditional leadership followed its own action, and the NPC was not the appropriate place to have this engagement.

With regard to dilapidated infrastructure, Mr Sechemane said there were regulations but the real question was why National Treasury was giving money if it was not sure that there was capacity to implement, and to which agents. The DWS would need to fast track the establishment of a very strong regulatory wing.

He said that there was not much of a problem around the change of leadership every five years in the municipalities, because once a plan had been adopted, and National Treasury was happy that the municipality had capacity to do what it needed to do, the plans should run. The Department in fact needed to have annual plans from the municipalities and more engagement was needed to make sure this happened.

Mr Sechemane noted the questions on pollution and replied  that the legislation needed to be changed. The legislation spoke about the “user pay” principle which should be enforced through municipal by-laws. If the municipalities were responsible for pollution, then institutional arrangements need to be looked at again. He also thought it might be necessary to look again at the Constitution and which sphere was responsible for water. NPC was asked to look at all legislation, and give advice to the Executive if something needed to be changed.

He said that the DWS was looking at its own programmes to see where it could help with capacitating  people elsewhere. The latest development was that municipalities were not taking people to do field work because they did not have people to give oversight to them.

The information on 3% mining water consumption came from the Department, but he was not sure how updated the information was. The NPC was looking at developing teams to conduct research but it did not want to duplicate work from other Departments. DWS had a lot of data available, but the NPC had to look at how the data collected was used, and what percentage of the data was actually being taken into account.

He could not answer the questions as to how the previous Commission had worked.

He made the point that on the eastern side of the country, there was higher rainfall, and in KwaZulu Natal there was a focus on rural development, to ensure that the rural communities had water. Some smaller dams had been finished within four to five years, and there were some good test sites.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked the Department what it was doing with regards to silting of dams, and how it was working with engineers to find a way to draw out soil from water, to ensure that the water could be used. 

Mr Chauke asked if the NPC have an understanding of the exact capacity that was in short supply or lacking across government. He wondered if there were relationships between the NPC and institutions of higher learning, and whether the higher learning curricula spoke to the needs as set out in the NDP.  He asked who actually controlled of water in the country. He asked what was the capacity of the state to monitor the 62% of water consumption which went to agriculture. He noted that the Water Workshop would help the Committee get to grips with some of these issues.

Mr Mnguni said that the NPC should be planning also around issues of golf courses and water owned by these entities. He wondered whether in irrigation, there were ways to force people to improve technology in irrigation, and whether there were more possibilities of recycling water in mining.

Mr Anil Singh, Deputy Director General: Regulations, DWS, made a few remarks to augment the NPC presentation. Legislation was being drafted at the moment. The primary mandate of the Department was the protection of water resources. The Committee had been briefed on the licensing regime. The Department focused on equity, redress and sustainability. The primary mandate is to protect water resources. The Department now had eleven Environmental Management Inspectors    (EMIs) who would deal with issues of pollution. In addition the Department's Water Pollution National Programme enforced action against polluters.

Ms Zandile Mathe,    Deputy Director General: National Water Resources Infrastructure Branch, DWS, answered the questions on silting, saying that the DWS had not been focusing on silting strategies as a way of managing dams, although it had now realised that this had compromised the position, and had now asked the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to assist it in finding a strategy. It was suggested that two or three dams should be dredged and used as the pilot, and in the meantime the DWS would still continue to build dams and manage through a separate silt strategy, which had commenced when DWS was informed of the major problems in Richards Bay. DWS was  also upgrading so that they did not have to keep the desalination plan permanent in Richards Bay, so that it could then also be extended to other areas.

Ms Mathe said that the challenges lay not so much with the size of the dam, but were generally because the DWS did not have money to build any dams that it had planned, unless it could get money from NT. However, it had been told that there was no new money available in the MTEF. Something not mentioned in the NPC was stand-alone dams, used for irrigation, but not for everyone. There was a very aggressive programme which looked as this, but again money was a problem. The NPC needed to address how to change single purpose dams into multi-purpose dams.

Ms Mathe said she would try to answer questions on sanitation, although the programme manager dealing with this was not in the meeting. The DWS had indicated in its infrastructure plan that there were a lot of waste water treatment works, and DWS was already dealing with those that were compromised. It had also prioritised and was dealing with bucket eradication. The need was overall too high in comparison to the resources and service. There were companies now approaching the DWS with biological plans to deal with waste.

Ms Deborah   Mochotlhi, Deputy Director General: Water Planning, DWS, noted that although the DWS had not had a master plan, it did have the National Resource Strategy.  That document indicated where planning was to be undertaken and where it would be finalised. Furthermore, an all-time study that the Department did had produced reconciliation strategies to give projected demand, which would indicate an estimated deficit. Based on studies, the Department's strategy was to work bottom up and top down.

Answering questions on information management, she said that the Department monitored the water quality and quantity. Early last year the Department launched an integrated water and sanitation information system, which combined all information in one central place, and with further cooperation from the NPC, this would be the definitive source from which to work.

Ms Gasa reminded Members that at a previous meeting, it had been said that the DWS had entered into an agreement with Netherlands, who would be deploying sector experts to work with the department. That would be welcomed, particularly as they were to work in communities. There were, to her mind, more opportunities than challenges and all were well aware of the responsibilities. The DPME and NPC were fully aware of their contribution and the fact that when water failed, there would be numerous knock-on effects.

The Chairperson said the question of ownership still stood unanswered.

Mr Basson was disappointed that the DWS had imported desalination plants to Richards Bay. He was not sure if the plants came from Iran, given that there was an agreement with Iran and the Minister. He asked why the DWS had not used local companies to manufacture these plants, particularly since there was one in Cape Town, because when it did not, it was not creating jobs in the country.

Mr Basson further said that on 4 September 2015, the Minister had said that the water plan would be completed by 31 August 2016. However, when would the answers be ready? The Committee still needed to see the plan. 

Ms Khawula suggested that the Commissioners should advise the government to remove people from Mbuzeni to their original homes, since there was no water. She announced that this should be done within the next five months.

Mr Chauke said that the Committee should not lose sight of the NPC presentation, and he suggested that Members should appreciate what had been presented and hear the challenges from the NPC side. He had not heard the Department fully accept what the NPC had said, and the Department must speak directly to those issues.

Ms Gasa said that the DWS did not object to any of the diagnostics done by the NPC. The Department concurred with the challenges that were raised here. She asked if the question of water ownership could be dealt with in a future meeting as it was a complex issue that would require time to unpack.

Dr Pulane Molokwane, Commissioner, NPC, said that when municipalities do not comply they are actually prejudiced. History had shown that negotiations and engagements did not work always. The NDP had a chapter on building a capable and developmental state. She added that she was aware of the shortcomings and there was going to be no capacitatation of municipalities if there was no attempt to develop the scarce skills. She said that there was a need to make civil service at a local municipal level attractive, because currently young people and professionals were not attracted to these jobs.

The Chairperson said that perhaps, in relation to Mr Mnguni and the golf course questions, it might be prudent for the DWS to revert to the Committee with the case study of the golf course in Jeffrey’s Bay giving the costs of maintaining it.

The meeting was adjourned.