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WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 October 2004
NATIONAL WATER RESOURCE STRATEGY: HEARINGS
Documents handed out:
Environmental Monitoring Group submission: Civil Society Comments
Environmental Monitoring Group submission: Department Responses to Civil Society Comments
Umgeni Water submission
Rand Water submission
South African Association of Water Utilities (SAAWU) submission
The South African Water Caucus, the Environmental Monitoring Group, Umgeni Water, Rand Water, Eskom and the South African Association of Water Utilities, made submissions on the National Water Resource Strategy. Some of the organisation raised a concern that their earlier inputs on the strategy had not been incorporated into the current version. On the NWRS, it was felt that too much emphasis was placed on the building of new dams. The allocation of 25 litres of water per person per household as proposed by the NWRS was also felt to be highly inadequate. The water utilities and Eskom were generally in support of the strategy given that certain issues needed further clarification.
South African Water Caucus briefing
Mr S Nojiyeza presented a synopsis of the areas of concern over the National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS). He said that the strategy focused primarily on the building of more dams and pipelines which was a costly process. The concern was that the end users of water would be required to fund the construction of these projects. The strategy's main focus should have been on providing greater access to water, developing strategies for clean water provision, the auditing of efficient usage of existing dams as well as encouraging participation by communities from all walks of life. Mr Nojiyeza felt that the building of more dams had an economic motive underlying it and that Parliament should be wary in its acceptance of the strategy. He also felt that the strategy's proposal of a minimum of 25 litres of water per person per household was insufficient as the international norm was 50 litres. In conclusion it was felt that the Caucus's previous comments on the earlier version of the strategy had not been assimilated into the revised version.
Mr J Arendse (ANC) commented that the Western Cape was building a new dam to capture rainwater that had previously been lost. He felt that if the dam had been built earlier the current water restrictions in the Western Cape might not have been necessary. The point was also made that the NWRS proposed initiatives other than dam building as possibilities of addressing SA's water resource problem. He was also sceptical that an economic motive was the sole motive underlying the building of the new dams. Public-private partnerships in water services provision were inevitable. A balance between the two was clearly what was needed.
Mr Nojiyeza reacted that he was not against the building of new dams. It was felt that the efficiency of existing dams should be reviewed before even considering the construction of new ones. Local communities had to be consulted in the planning of new dams and impact studies should be done. Mr Nojiyeza said that the strategy should have exempted indigent persons from having to pay for water despite the existence of public-private partnerships.
Mr I Mogase (ANC) noted that inputs on the strategy had mostly been received from individuals in the metropolitan areas. He asked why there was a lack of participation from the rural areas.
Mr Nojiyeza agreed that everyone should have participated. He said that NGOs should not be expected to represent rural communities. The process should be made accessible to all, allowing villagers to represent themselves.
Ms D Van der Walt (DA) asked if water users were not to fund the building of the new dams, how would it be funded?
Mr Nojiyeza reacted that the concern over the construction costs was primarily on how it would affect indigent persons. He mentioned that the construction costs could be borne by water boards, the African Development Bank and NEPAD initiatives.
Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) briefing
Ms L McDaid outlined EMG's concerns. The NWRS primarily focuses on a 25-year planning cycle which was felt to be far too short. The EMG proposed that a 100-year planning cycle be adopted in order to take into account the functional life of existing dams. The inadequacy of 25 litres of water per person per day was once again highlighted. Ms McDaid said that the strategy was also silent on the issue of reparation of dams, even though the topic was hotly debated internationally. She noted that the strategy covered pollution well even though the ecological reserve would be in a phased-in approach. Its practical implementation was a concern. Ms McDaid felt that there was a bias towards dam building even though the strategy could have expanded on measures of improving efficiency. It was also felt that the management of water should ultimately be in the hands of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and not be privatised as was foreseen. Ms McDaid shared Mr Nojiyeza's sentiments that previous comments by EMG had not been incorporated into the current version of the strategy.
Mr Arendse commented that it might be that a 100-year plan was better that than a 25-year one. He however said that limitations on information and knowledge could have been a constraint as to why it had been limited to 25 years. Mr Arendse added that the provision of 25 litres per person per day could have been decided on in terms of what could be afforded currently.
Ms McDaid noted that budgets for research and development needed to be set up if a 100-year projection was to be used. She felt that a balanced approach was needed and that the current strategy was insufficient.
Mr Mogase asked how one would prioritise water usage with the conservation of ecosystems. Ms McDaid said that not all rivers needed to be dammed up. Dams often have a negative effect on ecosystems.
Mr Maluleke asked whether a prepaid water meter system could work. Ms McDaid felt that prepaid water meters would not be viable as water was an absolute necessity, unlike electricity.
The Chair asked whether increasing the water allocation to 50 litres per person per day would be a step in the right direction. Ms McDaid said that it was better than the 25 litres that was being proposed. She asked why those persons who could afford to pay for water should be entitled to more water than those who could not.
Umgeni Water briefing
Mr P Jonas congratulated the Department on a job well done. Umgeni Water fully endorsed the NWRS and extended its support in finding solutions that were uniquely South African to our current water dilemma.
Mr Jonas emphasised that the strategy should be read in conjunction with water-related legislation.
The Chair asked whether the NWRS contributed towards achieving equity in SA. She asked how Umgeni Water felt about the 25 litres of water allocated per person per day.
Mr Jonas felt that the most important aspect of the strategy was that the Catchment Management Agencies (CMA) would be managing water at local level. Whether it leads to a more even distribution of water remains to be seen. He pointed out that there was no restriction to 25 litres. It was the basic minimum needed to survive and it was free of charge.
Rand Water briefing
Ms M Mbekeni noted Rand Water's approval of the NWRS. She provided a brief outline of Rand Water's activities in respect of the strategy. Rand Water was currently involved in the establishment of CMAs and the implementation of the strategy. This involvement goes beyond Rand Water's immediate business areas with a view of ensuring the sustainability of water as a resource. Rand Water however felt that the role of the Department as a regulator needed to be spelled out more clearly. It was also feared that the cost of eventually setting up and running the CMAs might have to be borne by water consumers. This was especially so in areas where CMAs had small amounts of users.
Mr Mogase asked if assistance was given to municipalities that had experienced problems.
Ms Mbekeni answered that assistance was given to municipalities. She added that Rand Water provided assistance to communities as well such as repairing leaks.
Mr Masala asked how inter-catchment transfers impacted upon the management activities of Rand Water.
A Rand Water representative said that Rand Water goes beyond their boundaries to assist with the management of inter-catchment transfers. He noted the example of the Tugela Vaal and Lesotho Highlands scheme. It was pointed out that management took place on a collective basis and that it was a very costly process.
The Chair asked what solutions Rand Water proposed in order to facilitate the implementation of the NWRS. She also asked how the needs of the people would be balanced with the need for the CMAs to be self-sufficient. The Chair asked what skills would be required for the proper implementation of the NWRS.
A Rand Water representative answered that there was a shortage of skills in water management throughout SA. Previously there had been nine provincial Department offices that had to be staffed. With the formation of the CMAs, 19 offices would now have to be staffed.
Mr P Mathebe (ANC) asked whether Rand Water was in favour of the establishment of CMAs.
Ms Mbekeni answered in the affirmative. She however pointed out that in certain areas where CMAs were not in charge of managing water, the responsibility would fall upon the regional office of the Department.
Mr Masala asked how Rand Water contributed towards poverty alleviation and social upliftment.
Ms Mbekeni said that Rand Water had initiated programmes to train community members on fixing leaks.
Mr Rob Lines briefly presented Eskom's single biggest concern. Eskom felt that the NWRS was in conflict with Government Gazette 1353. Both the strategy and the Gazette placed a separate burden on the users of transferred water to pay for the cost of infrastructural developments. Effectively users would therefore be paying twice for the cost of building the same infrastructure.
The Chair asked how Eskom would be disadvantaged economically.
Mr Lines explained that Eskom had been paying a Return On Assets (ROA) tariff on pipelines at the Vaal River since 2001.In terms of the NWRS, it would have pay again as a user of the pipeline. It would in essence be paying twice for the use of the same pipeline.
South African Association of Water Utilities briefing
Mr P Camay provided an overview on SAAWU's stance on the strategy. He commenced with the notion that there needs to be a holistic approach to water cycle management. The focus should not only be on the water resource management component. Water tariff implications, integrated raw water demand projections, institutional arrangements, regulation and raw water pricing were elaborated on. The second part of the presentation entailed fleshing out specific portions of Chapters 3 and 4 of the NWRS. These covered water pricing and financial assistance, water management institutions and capacity building in the water sector.
The Chair noted that capacity building and human resources was a common concern. She asked if there had been engagement with the Department of Public Services and Administration to address the concern.
Mr Masala asked for elaboration of the proposal that the regulator be independent. The Chair also wanted clarity on the issue.
Mr Camay noted that the issues that required regulation were those of health, environment and tariffs. He pointed out that a percentage of tariffs could be used to fund the independent regulator. The Department would thus be free to manage the national water utility. The idea of an independent regulator would allow civil society, consumers and businesses to lodge complaints if there were any.
Mr Arendse asked how SAAWU felt about those consumers who were unable to pay for water. He also asked why SAAWU wanted the Department to compensate water utilities for additional costs spent on purifying raw water. Mr Arendse asked whether the end user did not already absorb the additional costs.
Mr Camay said that poverty and unemployment was a grave concern. He felt that the lifeline to the poor should be extended by increasing the amount of free water from 6kl to 10kl. Mr Camay said that it was not always possible to guarantee what the cost of water would be. He noted that input costs vary from time to time. He asked why consumers should bear the cost where the quality of water supplied by the Department was not of a high enough standard.
Ms Ngwenya asked what it was that SAAWU wanted in relation to raw water pricing.
Mr Camay said that SAAWU would like signed agreements between the Department and utilities on raw water pricing.
The Chair asked what proposals were being made for institutional arrangements and institutional reform.
Mr Camay said that a range of options were available for the setting up of a strategic framework. He emphasised that many communities remained unserviced and it was crucial to supply them with water.
Mr Mathebe asked if the Department was paid up-front for water supplied to utilities.
Mr Camay said that the Department was paid after the water was sold.
The meeting was adjourned.