Water Research Commission: briefing

Water and Sanitation

28 May 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


This report is produced by Contact Trust

28 May 2003

Chair: Mr van Wyk (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Water Research Commission - Role and Functions
Capacity building by Water Research Commission
Africa/Nepad and the Water Research Commission
Rural Water Supply and Sanitation
Water Loss/ Leak Management
Water Quality: Contamination and Protection
Dam sitting and operation
Water and the Economy

Representatives from the Water Research Commission (WRC) made a number of different presentations. Due to time constraints they were unable to complete all the presentations but members received copies of the presentations (see documents attached). Committee members asked questions, some of which the WRC agreed to answer in writing as the Committee ran out of time.

A number of presentations were made by the various representatives of the WRC.

Mr. G. Green (Deputy CEO WRC) noted that the WRC exists to serve the water sector and to promote the application and dissemination of water knowledge. Its vision was to be a globally recognised leader in providing innovative solutions for sustainable water management to meet the changing needs of society and of the environment

He noted the core values of the WRC as:
-Service and orientation Care for people, society and the environment and Fairness to all and Dedication to quality and Integrity and ethical behaviour-
-Respect for human and individual rights
-Innovation and learning

He listed a number of strategic initiatives:
Capacity development-Business development (diversification of income)-Innovation/commercialization/intellectual property-International/Africa relations -Impact assessment-Public relations/communications/marketing

Mr. Green said that the WRC has a number of key service areas (KSA):

KSA 1: Water Resource Management

KSA 2: Water-linked Eco-systems. The key thrusts of this KSA are:1: Ecosystem Processes 2: Ecosystem Management and Utilisation3: Ecosystem Rehabilitation

KSA 3: Water Use and Waste Management. The key thrusts of this KSA are:1: Water and Sanitation Services: Institutional and Management Issues 2: Water Supply and Treatment Technology 3: Wastewater and Effluent Treatment and Reuse Technology 4: Industrial and Mine-Water Management

KSA 4: Water Utilization in Agriculture. The key thrusts of this KSA are:1: Water Utilisation for Food and Fibre Production2: Water Utilisation for Fuel wood and Timber Production3: Water Utilisation for Poverty Reduction and Wealth Creation in Agriculture4: Water Resource Protection and Reclamation in Agriculture

KSA 5: Water-centred Knowledge. The key thrusts of this KSA are:1: Strategic Research Advice2: Information and Communication Technology (ICT)3: Research Information and Document Management4: Publishing and Publications Centre5: Water-Centred Media and Activities

These key strategic areas link to the Water Resources Act

Please see the attached documents for the full presentation.

Steve Mitchell Director Water-linked eco systems Mr. Mitchell presented the committee with information regarding the WRC's capacity building initiatives

He said that they aim to build high levels of human resources, contribute to building the capacity to work with the new knowledge, and assist those responsible for capacity building with resources from which to develop course material.

He said that the WRC recognizes that capacity building should be an automatic outcome of research. They put money into stimulating research in previously disadvantaged institution.

Research projects that they fund must be capacity building. They can come from individuals, communities or institutions. They must involve a transfer of skills. There is an emphasis on supporting black men and women.

He noted that there are not enough university graduates coming through tertiary institutions to fill available posts. To try and change this they have produced a booklet which outlines possible careers in water related fields, from academic to technical.

He noted that people who have benefited from WRC funds find it easy to get jobs and many have gone on to senior posts. He also said that SA specialists work all over the world.

He said also that the WRC has mentoring centers in various institutions including UWC, UN and UPE.

Please see attached document for full presentation.

Mr. Kevin Petersen Director Water Resource Management Mr. Petersen discussed the WRC's links to Africa and NEPAD, saying that the WRC sees Africa and NEPAD as core for their strategy. He noted that the WRC has a Director in charge of links to Africa, who works with the National Depts. to contribute to NEPAD initiatives.

He explained that water has links to key African issues such as health, environment, agriculture and energy. Current projects include :•Implementing Agent for SADC project "Surface water assessment of Southern Africa"-The overall aim for this project is to improve the ability of the member states to make surface water resource assessments:•Disaster preparedness and vulnerability reduction in the lower Limpopo Basin-The WRC took part in the planning of this UNEP-GEF project •Great African Rift Development Strategy (GARDS)- water and sanitation contact

The WRC is also involved in training and development in African countries.

In terms of networking initiatives, the WRC has been involved in :•Contribution of the Accra declaration leading into WSSD•Assisted and facilitated the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSC) WASH campaign at the WSSD•Assisted DWAF in facilitating of African Ministerial Conference•Local Coordinator and Regional Coordinator of WSSCC•Water Utility Partnership

Please see attached document for full presentation

Jay Bhagwan, Director: Water use and Waste Management Mr. Bhagwan noted that water use and waste management are important areas of work. From the 1990's the WRC has promoted the concept of a community based approach. Over a short space of time WSS became one of the important activity areas in the WRC, and it has completed +/- 140 projects.

The WSS includes the following in its achievements:1./ Developing technology around collecting water from fog2./ Handpumps3./ Decision support systems for the development of rural supply schemes4./ Low-cost air-lift groundwater pump developed for use in rural settlements5./ The gender dimension of the water policy and its impact on water and sanitation provision and management6./ Training guidelines for participatory water resource management at catchments management area scales7./ Management guidelines for water services provision8./ SDSS - Sanitation technology selection support tool

Current focus areas include:1./ Cost recovery2./ Institutional and management areas3./ Rural areas 4./ Rural sanitation and hygiene education5./ Peri urban sanitation6./ Water treatment for rural areas 7./A Ground water programme

Mr. Bhagwan noted the following challenges:•Sustaining WSS services delivery and implementation•Strengthening local capacity, O&M•Measuring improvement in quality of life•Meeting expectations for higher levels of service•Infrastructure management•Maintaining community involvement•Improving technical aspects•Developing new technical solutions•Strengthening institutional capacity Water loss and leak management.

Please see attached document for full presentation.

Leak management - Mr Bhagwan Mr. Bhagwan said that water losses refereed to water that was unaccounted for. Leaks refers to water that is lost through burst pipes etc.

The WRC has introduced a number of studies to highlight and demonstrate and quantify inefficient use. Some of these include studies to determine :-Water use in high, medium and low income areas, down to the detail of quantifying water usage for bathing, brushing teeth, flushing, washing, lawns etc.-Introduction and development of technology to detect and determine water loss or leak detection-Piloting and demonstrating these technologies-Developing guidelines and strategies for WC/WDM-Education materials on Water Conservation for households

He said that the WRC was involved in developing the Burst and Background Estimation (BABE) concept which was now internationally recognized as a standard. - see presentation for full details of BABE concept

Please see attached document for full presentation

As there was limited time the Chair suggested that the panel from WRC take questions now even though the other presentations had not been completed.

Mr. Mathebe (ANC) thanked the presenters and acknowledged the good work done by the WRC. He asked however whether they were really able to reach rural communities, as people in rural areas were not aware of them. He asked what they were doing to make themselves better known

With regard to project funding he asked if they had received proposals from rural communities.

Mr. Green responded that they had difficulties in reaching rural areas. He noted that they had been successful in isolated instances. He said that they did need to develop better contact with rural networks and communities.

Mr. Bhagwan added that the WRC works with DWAF and DWAF takes over the application of the research that they do and applies them in rural areas. He said that the project funding would reach rural communities only in an indirect way.

Mr. Arendse (ANC) asked if their income is only from the state. He also asked what any other sources of income were.

Mr. Green responded that the income is largely from the water research levy and it was not Treasury money. Some money came from the Dept but most from the Water Boards.

Mr. Arendse clarified his question, asking whether they worked for any other entity where they earn money.

Mr. Green said that they did and he referred to the Businesses Development Drive, outlined in his presentation.

Mr. Arendse went on to ask whether the water from the fog project was economically viable, as it was not likely to work in areas in SA that most need water. He asked if it could be sold and whether the skills used to develop it could be redirected.

Mr. Green agreed that this was niche technology. He said that it was not sophisticated and so there was no special skills applied to the research. He said that it was one of a number of technologies that were being experimented with.

Mr. Arendse asked if it was a first for Africa.

Mr. Green responded that it could not be patented as it had been used elsewhere.

Mr. Bhagwan added that different areas have different needs regarding water use.

Finally Mr. Arendse asked if the 10% water loss target, which is internationally accepted is really a reasonable target for SA which is such a water poor country.

Mr. Bhagwan responded saying that water systems were the same the world over, and that it would be difficult to find new ways of reducing the percentage. He said that Japan had reduced it to 2% but that the cost of the technology they used to do this was far greater than the benefits they gained from the reduced losses. He went on to say that they had decided that until they knew more they would put the benchmark at 10%.

Mr. Arendse reiterated his comment that in a water poor country as SA this may be too much.

Mr. Bhagwan noted that in SA the key problem is in administration and not water leakages. It was therefore important to put energies into solving this problem.

Mr. Sigwela (ANC) asked whether it would be possible for PC members to be on the mailing list for WRC research, as they would find it useful in their work. He went on to ask about the WRC's relationship with the CSIR and whether they might be duplicating work. He asked if they had international connections.

Mr. Green said that they would put the PC members onto the mailing list, as he agreed that it would be useful to them. Regarding the CSIR he said that it is one of the research providers for the WRC. He added that as the WRC plays a co-ordinating function so there is little duplication of effort.

Mr. Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked about the water at work programme, and what incentives they had to keep graduate in SA. He asked about their relationship with the private sector.

Mr. Mitchell said that the Water for work programme worked at a national level. They had the capacity to feed into the water sector as a whole. He said that the foreign students referred to in the presentation are from SADC countries, and account for a small number of the total.

Mr. Digetelo asked whether they were reimbursed for this work.

Mr. Mitchell responded that there was no direct financial reward.

Mr. Mathebe (ANC) asked if they had exact numbers of blacks who benefited from the programmes.

Mr. Mitchell responded that they did not have exact numbers.

Mr. van Wyk (ANC) asked about the figures that were in the presentation and whether they could break down the number of students from rural areas.

Mr. Mitchell noted that this would take some time to get, and would be difficult.

Ms Makai from the WRC added that there were 2 or 3 communities that had applied for research grants and had received them.

Mr. Mothiba (UDM) asked whether the WRC could assist people concerned with municipal governance, and if so whether the suggestion should come from the Councilors. He said that some councilors apply city patterns to the rural areas, for example preventing people from putting in bore holes, instead of trying to improve water resources in rural areas.

Mr. Green noted that the WRC had a programme to build capacity and that tools and guidelines had been developed.

Mr. Phala (ANC) asked which department WRC fell under as he had not heard of them before. He also asked about how to deal with leakages and dry bore holes.

Mr. Green responded that they had not been before the PC before but felt that a relationship with them would be useful and that they would be able to assist the PC in their work.

On the question of boreholes Mr. Mitchell responded that there were a number of factors contributing to boreholes drying up, including the fact that they were often not be sited in the correct places.

He added that ground water had only become a national resource in 1998 so they did not have a lot of information on it.

Mr. van Wyk asked what research had been done which would help reduce the backlog in sanitation, for example alternatives to water borne sewerage as it uses a lot of water. He also asked about their research on rain water harvesting. He invited the WRC to participate in the Free Basic Water hearings on 4 June.

Mr. van Wyk suggested that outstanding questions be responded to in writing as there was no time left. He was concerned about the presentations that had not yet been made.

Mr. Green said that they would be very happy to meet with the PC again.

PC members agreed that the best way to deal with the situation was to set up another meeting with the WRC, as it would not be possible to do the presentations justice in the short space of time available.

The Chair noted that the presentations were very good and that the PC should have met with the WRC before. He agreed that there should be another slot where they could present. He apologized to those WRC representatives who had prepared presentations but had not been able to present and he thanked them for their time.

He went on to say that water quality was an issue that had been raised in the water budget hearings, and was one that the PC had said it would follow up on. He said another issue that had been raised was dam safety. He thanked the WRC and said that they would receive a formal invitation to the free basic water hearings in June.

Mr. Bhagwan said that it was useful to get direction from people who had more direct contact with communities.


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