Water Conservation and Water Conservation Demand: Department briefing

Water and Sanitation

25 August 2005
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
26 August 2005
WATER CONSERVATION AND WATER CONSERVATION DEMAND: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING

Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department briefing: The Role of Water Conservation and Water Demand Management in the National Water Resources Strategy
Department briefing: Western Highveld: Water Conservation and Water Demand Implementation
Presentation of Implementation of Arbor
National Arbor Week 2005 Events Calendar
Ministerial Events Calendar – Arbor Week 2005
Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Strategy for the Agricultural Sector
Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Strategy for the Water Services Sector
Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Strategy for the Industry, Mining and Power Generation Sectors
National Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Strategy

SUMMARY
The Department gave an overview of the role of water conservation and water demand management in the National Water Resources Strategy. Its aim was to improve access to affordable, effective and efficient water and sanitation services, job creation, poverty reduction and financial sustainability. Key activities would focus on institutional/legal, social, technical and financial interventions. The targets for effective water resource management and service delivery were the postponement of capital investments; improvements in the equity in allocation, improvements in the environment, increased efficiency and productivity, and conflict resolution.

The Department then gave an overview of the proposed launch of Arbor Week from 1-7 September 2005. The focus would be on the use and benefits of trees, and not only on planting of trees. The Department would align its activities with Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) dealing with forestry. The objectives of Arbor Week would be to inform communities, to raise awareness about the dangers of forest fires, and to focus on the environment and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

MINUTES

Department briefing
Mr C Chunda, Department Manager: Water Use Efficiency, gave an overview of the role of water conservation (WC) and water demand management (WDM) in the National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS). According to the NWRS, South Africa’s water resources were ‘scarce and limited’. With this in mind and in keeping with the South African Constitution which guaranteed ‘an environment that is not harmful to their (South Africans) health or well being’, the Department developed interventions which focused on institutional/legal, social, technical and financial interventions. The targets for effective water resource management and service delivery were: postponement of capital investments, improvements in the equity in allocation, improvement in the environment, increased efficiency and productivity, and conflict resolution.

Members were concerned about whether:
- the Department could communicate one strategy which South Africans could implement,
- land and water distribution could be treated as one issue,
- the ‘taps and toilets mindset’ of municipalities could be changed,
- the Department had used their resources adequately, and
- South African lifestyles were geared to the conservation of water.

Arbor Week briefing
Ms P Tunzi, Department Assistant Director: Forestry Policy and Strategy, gave an overview of their proposed launch of Arbor Week during 1-7 September 2005. The focus would be on the use of trees and its benefits and not only on planting of trees. The Department would align its activities with non-governmental organisations dealing with forestry. The objectives of Arbor Week would be to inform communities, to raise awareness about the dangers of forest fires, and to focus on the environment and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). The target audience would involve everyone from schools, media, people in rural and urban areas, to business and local government. Events would occur nationally and regionally through an integrated communication approach.

Discussion
The Chairperson congratulated South African youths who had won a junior water prize in Sweden for the second year in a row. She asked about the progress of the NWRS. Much emphasis had been placed on the household sector. What was the position in mining, agriculture and industry, for example?

Mr J Arendse (ANC) thanked the Department for excellent delivery. He needed clarity on water reticulation in municipalities. Communities should learn not to waste water. He asked what mechanisms were in place to avert disasters like burst pipes in suburbs. What was the Department’s relationship with municipalities? During oversight visits, emerging farmers had no access to water. Farmers seemed to hog the water upstream. Who authorised water use as he felt that a balance needed to be struck? Mr Chunda responded that groundwater was public water. A license was needed if water was to be used for commercial use.

Mr M Masala (ANC) asked whether municipalities could appeal to the Department to intervene when there had been water loss in their areas. During oversight visits to KwaZulu-Natal, there had been 40% water loss. The cause could not be ascertained. There had been substantial water savings during interventions in the presentation. Mr Chunda responded that intervention was possible in the strategy.

Mr M Sibuyana (ANC) queried the amount of times the Department engaged with municipalities to talk about problems regarding water loss. He had observed that bigger dams had been constructed before taps had been installed in rural areas.

The Chairperson questioned the extent to which the lifestyles of South Africans were conducive to water conservation. It was incomprehensible to her, and she was sure to many others, how South Africa could be a water scarce country since it was surrounded by two oceans and had many rivers. She commented that the Department had lobbied for more finances. Had they used their current personnel and resources to deal effectively with water conservation and water demand management? Had WC and WDM been placed on the agenda at Nedlac because she felt there was a relationship between the economy and water? Had the Department entered into partnerships with other departments on water projects? She felt that municipalities needed a mindshift on their ‘taps and toilets’ mentality. They needed a ‘conserve and demand’ focus. She asked whether the Department could communicate one set of ideas on water conservation to South Africans for uniformity.

Mr Sibuyana remarked that it had been disturbing to see water not accessible to communities during his oversight visits. He asked for more water catchments to be built as the summer rainfall flowed into the sea. The Chairperson reminded him that the issue under discussion was ‘conservation and demand’ and not ‘supply’.

Mr S Simmons (NNP) questioned the wastage of water during irrigation and in urban areas. Most of the case studies focused on water savings in households.

Ms H Rodkin, Department Senior Manager: Water Use Efficiency gave a general response to all the questions that had been raised. She said that because of the language problems and historical backlogs, the Department was not close to reaching their goals. During the planning of water use efficiency options, the idea was to consider water demand management options, which would achieve a sustainable supply of resources in a water scarce country like South Africa. They had needed to balance the water reticulation systems between privileged and less privileged societies to achieve equitable access to resources. They would be able to achieve that through greater access to funding and by creation of co-operative government agreements and memorandums of understanding. They needed to build capacity by appointing more technically skilled people. Water resource management was a growing field. They needed to create awareness at school level. They needed to invest in women to create women engineers. There were financial challenges. The agricultural sector needed to be addressed.

Mr Chunda said that water conservation had become ‘politicised’. Verification and validation mechanisms looked at the allocation of water to determine catchment areas. Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Project needed R30 billion. The money could be redirected to Zululand where the need was greater.

The Chairperson felt that land and water distribution should be seen as one entity. She felt that the Committee should lobby to that end.

Ms Rodkin added that the Department would balance available resources and place capacity where it was needed. This initiative would not only be confined to townships and rural areas. The Department stressed the need for greater access to resources. The Department would engage the private sector for funding. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) would be hosting a workshop on water demand management on 20 and 21 September 2005. It would be funded by Swedish and international donor funding. The junior prize winners was an example of the Department’s co-ordination with youths for water resource management for the future.

The Chairperson remarked that during oversight visits there had been a dearth of information on water. She felt that the Department should make their information more widely accessible. She asked whether an exhibition could be held in the foyer of the Old Assembly to publicise Arbor Week and to highlight ‘Working for Water’. She challenged the Department to be in areas where they were needed during National Water Week and not Canal Walk and Sandton shopping centres.

Mr Arendse remarked that trees were destroyed soon after they were planted. How was the Department going to ensure the survival of trees? He asked whether the forestation of the Eastern Cape was a development on its own or was it linked to Arbor Week? Ms Tunzi replied that communities should work with local government to ensure the sustainability of the projects. The Department would contact the municipalities for feedback. Because of the disparity between suburbs in Johannesburg and those in Soweto, trees would be given to households for free and managed by them on a three-year basis.

Mr Simmons questioned how communities had been consulted. He felt that communities should be educated about the importance of trees and their ability to beautify areas.

The Chairperson asked how areas had been chosen and had it been in keeping with the government’s initiative to alleviate poverty and to create a better life for all. Ms Tunzi explained that she had addressed poverty alleviation in her introduction. She had linked the planting of trees with its uses and importance in life.

The meeting was adjourned.

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