Climate change impact on water and sanitation; MDGs attainment & SDGs incorporation into Department of Water and Sanitation's work

Water and Sanitation

07 September 2016
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Members of the Committee expressed some surprise when they were told who controlled water in South Africa, during discussion on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and incorporation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the work of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). They were told that water control was in the hands of the few, and the Department was managing only 300 of the country’s dams, while over 400 dams were in private hands. Adding to their concerns, they heard that an individual in the Mhlathuze district was selling water to the government, and a golf course in the Kouga area was paying only R10 annually for its water bill. As a result, Members wanted a serious debate about water control before tackling water plans.

The DWS reported that in 2005, the MDG target of halving the backlogs had been achieved in respect of water services. All provinces had achieved the MDG target, and the Department had established a comprehensive water services business framework.

The key MDG lesson learnt was the need to focus on sustainable and reliable services as the outcome, with associated interventions and governance, and not only on once-off infrastructure delivery. The drive was an internal one, and not just an international obligation. Many success factors contributed to the achievement of a positive outcome, but the same ones also became risk and failure factors, such as programme management, coordination and leadership. It was also realised there was a need to deal with a moving target and water services as a business, and the application of life cycle and value chain approaches and principles. The key priority over the past 20 years was, and still is, the need to ensure and facilitate access to basic water services

The SDG contained 17 goals to be attained by 2030. The new goals reflected a flexible global vision, recognising that each country faced specific challenges to achieve sustainable development. A dedicated goal, Goal 6, was to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Concerning the encapsulation of SDGs in water and sanitation sector programmes, South Africa was self-driven in this regard and the DWS had already initiated most of the goal initiatives.

The DWS had taken a decision that going forward, it would formalise the water resources baseline, targets and indicators by the end of 2016 and accelerate the SDG mobilisation by setting up programmes for delivery, sector mobilisation, and resources (budget/finance, skills and capability), to ensure implementation readiness.

Members wanted to know if the Department was engaging with other African countries with regard to water and sanitation provision services to ensure the country had its own African agenda; remarked that they did not know how Goal 6 was going to be achieved on the ground because of the DWS’s lack of resources; commented that the Department was very good at planning, but was falling down on implementation; noted that the it had not said anything about what could be done to improve education at schools and in communities about how water diseases were affecting the population; suggested engagement between Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and the DWS, to ensure the DWS was given full responsibility for water provision services to all communities; and stressed that it was important to address the issue of who controlled water.

Meeting report

Ms Deborah Mochotlhi, Deputy Director General: Planning and Information, DWS, told the Committee that before the setting of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, South Africa (SA) had already committed itself in 1994 to ensuring access to basic water services. The set target had been to address the total backlog, rather than halving the backlog. The then Department of Water Affairs (DWA) had established a dedicated programme, policy, criteria and legislation, funding, a comprehensive database, and an information system. There was extensive political will and commitment.

In 2005, the MDG target of halving the backlog had been achieved in the water services. All provinces had achieved the MDG target, and the Department had established a comprehensive water services business framework. The achievements were to be viewed against two criteria:

  • Global norms and standards (varying from 500m to 5km access to water);
  • The South African Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) norms (access within 200m).

The key MDG lesson learnt was the need to focus on sustainable and reliable services as the outcome, with associated interventions and governance, and not only on once-off infrastructure delivery. The drive was an internal one, and not only an international obligation. Many success factors contributed to the achievement of a positive outcome, but the same ones also became risk and failure factors, such as programme management, coordination and leadership. It was also realised there was a need to deal with a moving target, with water services as a business, and the application of life cycle and value chain approaches and principles.

In order to move forward, the key MDG messages had focused on five areas. These were to finish the unfinished business by creating universal access, manage the moving target, focus on sustainable, reliable, affordable and safe services, recover failures and poor services, and maintain existing good services.

The key priority over the past 20 years was, and still is, the need to ensure and facilitate access to basic water services. From a water resource management point of view the key challenges identified were:

  • Water security and the unsustainable use of water;
  • Pollution of fresh water resources;
  • Degradation of ecosystems;
  • Managing shared water courses and basins;
  • Disaster management and climate change.

Recently an important issue that had come to the fore was to promote and manage water within the country’s developmental agenda, involving economic, social and environmental growth and development.

The limited surplus of fresh water resources was quoted as a challenge in the country. In order to address this, there was a need to:

  • Support and facilitate social, economic and environmental growth and development;
  • Respond to the priority drivers of the national development plan (NDP);
  • Improve and rethink water management approach and solutions;
  • Address key concerns such as pollution, ensuring water security, environmental degradation, disaster management;
  • Commit to ensure sustainable basic services;
  • Apply an integrated management approach;
  • Address the issue of sustainability.

After the Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development, it had been decided to develop a Post 2015 Global Agenda of a water-related sustainable development goal (SDG). This had resulted in the decision to develop specific SDGs, and thereby get all countries to commit to the achievement of these goals and targets. Various processes were developed to facilitate country and interest group input. South Africa had contributed through country processes, led by the Department of International Relations, participation by a direct open working group -- a macro development team – and through international water sector interest groups. These had included United Nations (UN) facilitated work sessions, a Budapest high level conference, and the formation of the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW)

Based on its experience and achievements, the DWS had also been invited to be part of international expert teams to prepare input towards the setting and development of dedicated water SDGs. The key objectives of the South African and international water industry with regard to the transition from MDGs to SDGs were the establishment of a dedicated water goal, with meaningful and relevant sub-goals and targets, and the need to address and ensure effective capacity, resources and leadership to facilitate the achievement of the set targets.

Four specific and focused water business areas had been identified:

  • Reliable and sustainable basic water and sanitation services;
  • Water resource management;
  • Placing and managing water within a development agenda;
  • Ensuring effective integrated water management.

The SDG contained 17 goals to be attained by 2030. The new goals reflected a flexible global vision, recognising that each country faced specific challenges to achieve sustainable development. This included a dedicated water goal, Goal 6:  to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. However, water was also duplicated, reflected or implied in various other goals.

Goal 6 had six sub-goals/targets. These were to achieve by 2030 universal access to safe and affordable drinking water, and to safe and adequate sanitation (with a specific focus on the needs of woman and girls), improved water quality through reduced pollution, improved water-use efficiency, implementation of integrated water management, and the protection and restoration of ecosystems.

Concerning the encapsulation of SDGs in water and sanitation sector programmes, South Africa was self-driven in this regard, and the DWS had already initiated most of the goal initiatives, which were:

  • Ensuring universal and sustainable access to basic water services;
  • Focused water resource intervention, through the National Water Resource Strategy 2, reconciliation strategies, and water use efficiency;
  • Placing water within the development agenda, by aligning with the NDP and macro strategies;
  • The need to invest in information management and focused delivery programmes, as well as skills and the capability to deliver;
  • Finalising the future institutional arrangements for the management of water resources, with national and regional infrastructure;
  • Collaboration between DWS and entities, such as Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) and water boards.

Ms Mochotlhi concluded that, in going forward, the DWS would:

  • Formalise the water resources baseline, targets and indicators by the end of 2016;
  • Accelerate SDG mobilisation this year, and set up programmes for delivery, sector mobilisation and resources;
  • Ensure implementation readiness;
  • Address information and reporting requirements, such as setting performance benchmarks this year for each sub-goal and monitoring system;
  • Restructure the DWS and institutional arrangements;
  • Conduct a legislative review
  • Develop and implement the national water master plan.

(Tables were shown to illustrate basic water supply achievement, basic sanitation progress, external and international assessment, and community water needs)

Discussion

Mr L Basson (DA) said he did not know how Goal 6, which propagated access to basic water and sanitation services for all, was going to be achieved on the ground. For the plan to work, it needed finances which unfortunately were not there. The Department was behind on targets. The 2014 report had stated that 84% of the assessed water plants were in a critical state, and only 16% of the water plants were not at a critical risk. 82% of dams in the country were polluted There was a need to make sure the rivers were clean. With the budget the Department was receiving from Treasury, the Department must forget about meeting its targets. He did not understand why the national water plan could not be completed within the set time frame. Instead, it had been extended to 2018. Stability in the Department was another area of concern, because there had been six directors-general in seven years. Everybody was in an acting capacity. The presented document was just a piece of paper which said nothing about how plans were going to be implemented on the ground.

Mr Anil Singh, Deputy Director-General: Regulations and Compliance, DWS, said that pollution was a scourge the country faced nationally. The Department was dealing with regulatory matters and there were entities and units that dealt with pollution on the ground.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) added that when it came to environmental sustainability, the main challenge facing the country was pollution. As long as the commitment from local municipalities was not there, the Department would continue to complain about pollution.

Ms Mochotlhi admitted the target set for the completion of the national water plan was ambitious. The whole programme had got delayed at some point, because now the sanitation unit had come on board. The National Water Resource Strategy now indicated which water resource was going to be developed. It was a piece of legislation that looked at issues every five years.

Mr H Chauke (ANC) commented that some of the issues would require a clear understanding, just to ensure that these political commitments were going to happen. An integrated approach was required to bring in other key stakeholders. He asked if the Department was sharing the budget with other key stakeholders.

Mr Fred van Zyl, Director: Macro Water Services Planning, DWS, said that the integrated management approach was reflected in the Outcome 9 Agreement, which the Cabinet had approved. What needed to be done was to align resources and have a dedicated oversight unit. The major problem was financing.

Ms Mochotlhi said the Department had been haphazard in doing its work with other departments, had no clear goals, was failing to understand it had no budget, and was not in touch with what was happening on the ground. The Department was forced to work with other departments, even though this was happening at a slow pace. At least with the little funding it received, something was happening.

Ms T Baker (DA) remarked the Department was very good at planning, but it was falling down on implementation. The goals were good, but achieving them was not going to happen. She wanted to know how the commitments were going to be monitored, because nothing was monitored at present. She also asked how the issue of capacity was going to be addressed, because the Department needed qualified process controllers, plumbers and technicians, and not people who attended three-week courses. It needed people with three to four-year qualifications. Water security was a huge problem. Nationally, there was not enough storage capacity. Spatial planning was poor, communities were growing, and people were having water restrictions, especially in areas like Ilembe.

Ms Mochotlhi, with regard to monitoring, explained that Goal 6 talked about water quality strategies in order to integrate water quality management, and there were other programmes listed. The sanitation programme annual performance plans (APPs) indicated that 100% had not been achieved, but projects set out to be done had been achieved. Implementation issues could be traced on the APPs. On the issue of skills development, she said the process was not going to be quick. It took time to develop a person from a college or university education to be what one wanted him/her to be.

Mr Van Zyl added the Department worked with municipalities on work assessments. When it came to skills and capacity, high risk areas in most municipalities were in water management. One could have plans, but if the technical skills were not there, there was nothing one can do.

Mr Sifiso Mkhize, Acting Director-General: DWS, said that at the financial management level, they make sure that each regional department had a financial head and that they all met quarterly, including with the financial heads of water boards, to discuss matters of capacity.

Mr Cebekhulu remarked that the focus seemed to be on water provision. The Department had not said anything about what could be done to deepen education in our schools and communities at large about how water diseases were affecting the population.

Mr M Galo (AIC) commented that the presentation had been too academic. In late August 2016, the observations of the National Planning Commission had pointed to a lack of an integrated approach and common goals between the Department and the municipalities. The challenge was on district municipalities, because they did not have capacity. He suggested the Committee should engage with the powers that be, to engage with the Ministers of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and Water and Sanitation, to ensure the Water Ministry was given full responsibility for water provision services to all communities. If this responsibility continued to be given to municipalities, Members would continue to theorise about MDGs. In rural areas, people spend three weeks without water, and that was a big challenge. The presentation, therefore, was not assisting the Committee.

An ANC Member asked if the Department was engaging with other African countries with regard to water and sanitation provision services to ensure there was an own African agenda, not prescriptions from the UN.

Mr Mkhize responded that the UN had established a panel of ten member states on water. South Africa and Senegal were part of that panel. These member states were there to influence the SDGs on water issues. There were also other agreements the country has entered into with other African states, including within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) remarked that water provision remained a challenge. She had no idea where the Department had got what it had presented, because people were still without water. The water agencies appeared to be wasting the taxpayers’ money, because they were worsening the water provision services. People needed water now and could not afford to wait for 2030. On the ground, the proposals and work of the Department were not felt. The burst pipes and pipes without water did not make her feel proud about the Department.

The Chairperson commented the Committee was dealing with a serious geo-political spatial apartheid legacy. People talked a lot about the bantustanisation of black people. For example, in the Free State, one found lots of rocks when one dug the soil. That meant no one was supposed to stay there. Another area of concern was the infrastructure that was not being maintained and the budget that continued to shrink. Grand plans were there, but the reality was that the skills were not there. Without the skills, one could kiss the programme good-bye.

Mr Singh said the Department had decided to support local government in their efforts to maintain the ageing infrastructure. The municipalities had to look at the core funding, but the main challenge was the shortage of technical skills. The implementation plan had to delineate what the Department was going to do and also what the entities were going to do, going forward.

Mr Chauke said the tradition of asking questions and the Department responding, and thereafter the meeting adjourned, had to change. There was a need to engage to see how one could get rid of the geo-political spatial apartheid legacies. The Western Cape had more town planners and engineers than any other part of the country. This made it clear that the issue of skills became critical in sustaining development. The Committee should extend an invitation to the Education Minister and engage with him on the understanding of his Department regarding the skills shortages in the country. The Committee should structure its oversight around the skills shortage problem.

Mr Van Zyl told the Committee that water provision was a continuous business from the implementation side. The Cabinet had agreed to Outcome 9, to develop implementation plans and create partnerships with COGTA and the Department of Human Settlements. All this had been presented to the Cabinet. There was a need to review the ageing infrastructure, and this was already a big job. Critical service quality was important for improved governance, accountability, and discipline. It was important to focus on finance for replacement and maintenance, institutional support for interventions, and smart solutions. These actions were happening and were planned in detail with municipalities. How the Department dealt with these issues was critical, and the Department would try to brief the Committee thoroughly on these matters.

Mr Basson remarked it should be clear the Committee appreciated what the Department was doing. As politicians, Members worked with communities and they received complaints. Politicians then run to the Department, because doors were shut by municipalities for the people. It had become clear that municipalities did not have technical skills and there was a need to engage with them in terms of interventions. If municipalities were struggling with technical skills, they must give the work to the water boards. Capacity issues also needed to be discussed with COGTA. In many cases, the work was started and left mid-way because there was no capacity and the whole project became vandalised. Then one had to start afresh. It was important to find better solutions, otherwise this was going to be on-going. Someone had to take a decision. Unfortunately, it was a political decision, even if it meant there had to be more water boards to provide water services to municipalities that were not able to deliver water services.

Mr Chauke added it was important to address the issue of who controlled water. The issue of water control had started in the Committee already, and it was going to end up in the National Assembly. The Committee should rather arrange a session soon to address water control before it talked about water plans. Politicians found it difficult to sit and take punches. Water was a scarce resource. The politics of water had to be addressed now before it was too late.

The Chairperson informed the Committee there was a new piece of legislation that talks about transgressions involving vandalism. Both points raised by Messrs Basson and Chauke were ideological issues, because when he heard people talking about SA as water-scarce country, he disagrees with that notion. When drought strikes, it did not strike everyone at the same time. Water control remained in the hands of the few in the country. It had come to his attention that there was a person in the Mhlathuze district who sells water to the government. Over 400 dams were in private hands, while the Department looked after 300 dams.

The Committee asked the Department to investigate the following matters and report back to it soon:

  • In Kouga there was a golf course that paid R10 per annum for its water;
  • The Warrington Community in Northern Cape did not have water.
  • Who polluted water?
  • There was no water at eMalahleni;
  • The Department must see if irrigation restrictions were being observed in drought-stricken areas like Hluhluwe, because if they were not observed, dams were going to be empty;
  • There were burst pipes in Umlazi (ward 74 and 76) that had not been attended to since they were destroyed by a tornado in May 2016.
  • In Chatsworth (ward 77, house No.11) a family had been affected by a disaster.

Adoption of Minutes

The minutes of 25 May and 24 August were adopted, with minor amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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