National Water Resource Strategy: briefing

Water and Sanitation

17 June 2003
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 June 2003
NATIONAL WATER RESOURCE STRATEGY: BRIEFING


Chairperson:
Mr J F Van Wyk (ANC)

Documents handed out:
National Water Resource Strategy Progress Report
National Water Resource Strategy

SUMMARY

The Committee expressed concern they had not been provided with copies of the presentation prior nor during the briefing. The public consultative process was dealt with in depth, where although the successes and inadequacies of the process were highlighted, very little content was covered. Apart from the changes to the proposed National Water Resource Strategy, the protection of water resources and water pricing was discussed in line with poverty eradication, and in view of South Africa being water stressed.

MINUTES
Mr Bill Rowlston, Manager: Policy & Strategy Co-ordinator introduced his presentation as a follow-up on the previous briefing on the National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS). He said that it was a privilege to be presenting to the Committee and noted that they had completed the Public Consultation Process. In summary the presentation provided details of the Public Consultation Process, changes to the Proposed NWRS as a result of comments received and the anticipated programme for the establishment of the National Water Resource Strategy, First Edition.

Discussion
Ms M Ngwenya (ANC) was concerned that no mention had been made about rain water harvesting and the upgrading or streams. She wanted to know precisely who the NWRS was providing workshop to. What were the departments plans regarding the drying up of boreholes, and other plans to help both the food security programme become viable and to eradicate poverty?

Mr E Sigwela (ANC) asked the presenter to unpack water pricing with regards to reliable water supply.

Mr M Masala (ANC) asked whether the stakeholders consulted and invited to the workshops had targeted and included local municipalities, particularly in the rural areas and community leaders. Regarding the issue of water beyond basic services, he asked if the strategy would enable people in the rural areas to water the gardens and have irrigation schemes. What alternatives did they have in view of dam construction beyond 2025; and in addition asked the presenter to comment on the recent bus accident where people drowned.

Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) said that he needed clarity on what water conservation was, and how people could apply it in rural villages in order to eradicate poverty.

Mr M Phala (ANC) asked whether the workshop had targeted the three spheres of government. His second question related to springs, and how they were protected.

Mr Sibiya's (ANC) question focused on water pricing and financial assistance. He wanted to know if financial assistance had to do with basic water, and exactly what its implications were.

Mr P Ditshetelo (UCDP) said that dry areas were in dire need for the provision of water and equally so for the preservation of water. He explained that even when dams were built, they faced the problem of water evaporation during hot summers. Were underground dams recommendable, and if so, what was the costing ?.

The Chair related his concerns about dam safety to the dam that burst its wall in Cape Town. The media had reported that the irrigation report had not been found. The Reverend asked the Presenter if the Previously Disadvantaged Individuals had been consulted on water pricing, and if he could comment on the impact water pricing would have.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) said that water pricing would be a national strategy at the end of the day, and the three spheres of government would have to implement it, but, because of lack of capacity, it would have a negative effect. Would the strategic plans relating to the management of water be able to deal with the transformation of water users in association with those that managed water at a local level. He hoped that the Committee would not only be looking at the Strategy again when it was finished.

Mr Rowlston stated that he would respond to the most important question first, addressing Mr Arendse concerns that the Committee would only receive the document when it was completed, as this was not his intention. His understanding of parliamentary process was that the document had to be approved by Cabinet first. Then the Committee must decide when they wished to meet and discuss the document.

Regarding the stakeholders they had consulted, he stated that they were conscious of the necessity to consult as much as possible at a grassroots level. Some communities and their representatives had been difficult to find and consult. They did not pretend that their consultative process included every individual in South Africa. They aimed to reach as many representatives or groups as possible. They collected the names and addresses of people and contacted them, sometimes at their doorstep. In some instances they covered the cost of transport to attend workshops and used evening and weekends if necessary. Their consultation process had been pro-active and reactive.

During the consultation process they targeted all municipalities in the country and all relevant provincial departments. In many areas the representation from local and provincial governments was not what they would have liked. The consultation process with SALGA was also not as good as they wanted. If they are asked they will make presentations to municipalities on the NWRS. He suggested that a reason for the low consultation might have been due to the previously conducted Masibambane workshops, which were targeted specifically at communities and dealt with the water services and management. Municipalities may have felt that they had already consulted the Department on Water issues, however everyone received at least two invitations to the workshops.

Food security was not Mr Rowlston's area of expertise, but he was aware that the NWRS, which estimated 25 L/head/day of water, was not sufficient to expect people to be able to do everything with their water. They first need to identify the additional water needs, and then acquire a steady supply to be able to support this. This was part of the Integrated Rural Development Strategy. They are committed to not only already registered users, but also to identifying potential water users and to ensure that they can make an application for water. There is need to correct the inequities in water distribution, but first the people in need must be identified, to give people a steady water supply so they are not just comfortable in their poverty but less poor.

Everyone is allowed to harvest water from their roofs in the National Water Act, which was not mentioned adequately in the report. He was unsure of the thrust of the question regarding upgrading streams, but ensured the Committee that the National Water Act and the NWRS intend to protect streams from pollution. They also promoted the conservation of boreholes by advising people how much water they could remove in order to not permanently affect the ground water supply. This means only pumping water out to the level of recharge.

The Department takes ground water supply very seriously. One third of rural communities collect ground water, and it is often of much better quality than surface water because it is filtered through the ground. They have a promotion campaign to emphasise its use as a primary source.

Municipalities are responsible for water services. They have a shared responsibility for management of water resources. That is why in their workshops they stressed the importance of the relationship between municipalities and catchment management organisations. This relates to the implementation of water born sewage. If the municipalities have plans to implement this type of sanitation, they must reflect it in their plans, and work together to identify the amount of water available, so that they can make the most efficient use of it.

Water is a basic human need, which affects equality and dignity. There is enormous potential in this country to use water more efficiently. For example, agriculture uses 60% of all water and much of it is not used as efficiently as it could be, as they continue to water the land and not the crops. They can achieve the same end product by using less water. Although this is a water scarce country, he believes that there is the will, capacity and drive to provide it to everyone.

The safety of dams is a complicated issue. In KZN some people consulted said that dams must be fenced, as their children might drown in their waters, while others said the opposite, because they need to access their waters. The Department must strike a balance between the two concerns. He suggested that in order to make dams safer, there needs to be more awareness of the safety precautions needed. Dams construction could dramatically increase the yield of available water in this country, by allowing storage of freshwater running to the sea and of floodwater. They were aware of the World Commission on Dams Report, and are committed to constructing them in a responsible way to decrease evaporation, and environmental damage. Often the benefits of the dams have not been equitable distributed and they are committed to reversing this, however if no dams are built they would be condemning a significant portion of the population to no increase in standard of living.

He conceded that there was nothing said about springs in the NWRS, he agreed that they needed to ensure their protection and promised to look into it.

Water Pricing in South Africa is set out by the National Water Act (NWA). It provides subsidies to emerging farmers. There is also a waiver on the Resource management charge for five years to allow previously disadvantaged, emerging farmers to use water, as long as they are members of a Water User Organisation. The water pricing has three phases:

Resource management charge, which is 1.3-1 cent/cubic meter to fund activities like monitoring and is based on the amount of water used.
Developmental Use of water works which is significantly more money and is used to cover the cost of designing dams etc.
Economic charge which is based on the value of the water in the market. Those who can pay more may use more as long as it is not to the disadvantage of the poor.

He then clarified his comments regarding specific industries being singled-out. Different sectors including mining, agriculture, power generation and forestry had each focused on their pet issues, and each had an opportunity to say their piece. In this way they actually singled everyone out, as none of them commented on the parts of the NWRS that they liked.

The Chair thanked Mr Rowlston for his presentation. He commented that representativity and issues of transformation in the water sector needed a closer look. He also felt that the briefing had reflected an over emphasis on water supply on large commercial farmers as against rural household. He added that a second presentation was necessary because this one had focused on the consultation process and not on content. The presentation was mostly about the Consultation process, rather than the content of the NSWA. The Chair stated that Committee would like another briefing before the report is finalised.

The meeting was adjourned.

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