Water Quality and Security: public hearings

Water and Sanitation

20 June 2006
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

20 June 2006

Chairperson: Ms CC September

Documents handed out:


DWAF presentation
Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs (DALA) presentation
Department of Education (DOE) presentation
SALGA presentation
Emanti presentation
CSIR presentation
Water Research Commission presentation
Applying the World Commission on Dams Report in South Africa
Four DWAF Pamphlets on Water Issues
State of Rivers Report: Olifants / Doring and Sandveld Rivers 2006

As part of its oversight role and to explore ways to provide good quality water and water security, the Committee held public hearings on water quality and security. Different governmental departments and different water organisations presented to the Committee their strategies on how they planned to provide the public with good quality drinking water.

DWAF indicated that there was discrepancy in the quality of drinking water. Challenges included a lack of understanding of the requirements of water quality management systems (WQMS) and inadequate interventions. Raw surface water and groundwater were compromised by a variety of factors, including mining, industry and farming. The legislative framework was summarised. She stated that all water service authorities were encouraged to develop plans and cooperate with DWAF. She summarised its channels of communication.

Emanti summarised the importance of WQMS and the various ways in which effective and sustainable water management would be assisted. It outlined the Free State Water Quality Management case study, highlighting the supportive intervention approach. There was a need to coordinate efforts and rollout of the WQMS programmes. Water service authorities often under budgeted and there was poor understanding of water and sanitation matters and water safety issues.

CSIR summarised the scope and impact of their research and noted some of the programmes undertaken. Their resources and capacity were summarised, together with the ways in which they assisted DWAF and other projects.

WRC reported that it funded and outsourced research of all aspects of water. It was currently funding 39 projects. Urban water quality was good but rural water quality posed problems. Most of the problems emanated from insufficient management and operational staff skills and monitoring, and insufficient funding. WRC recommended the establishment of expert teams in each province, the establishment of management and technology assistance centres, improving salaries and condition of operational staff and proper implementation of DWAF’s WQMS.

EMG summarised the reports on dams and stated that South Africa needed to address existing dam and social issues, enhance governance and water and energy resources development, and promote river health and environmental issues. Planning on dams often did not take all factors into account and farming practices wasted water. EMG wished to publicise their reports and stressed that South Africa needed to improve the decision making on dams and water use.

SALGA summarised the challenges faced by local government and WSAs with regards to drinking water quality, stating that there was a lack of understanding of the legislation, drinking water quality standards, and effective water management. Standards had been set, and were sufficient, but local government required support in order to establish and maintain the correct systems to meet the standards. The monitoring and systems used in the Free State were summarised. SALGA recommended increasing the profile of WQMS, creating awareness of implementation of assessments, consultative audits and interventions by DWAF.

Department of Education summarised the areas of the National Curriculum Statement dealing with the issue of water and human settlements. It was noted that the way in which the assessment standards had been drawn provided for a wide interpretation of applications.

The Department of Agricultural and Land Affairs reported that their aims of leading ad supporting sustainable agriculture and promoting rural development could be achieved through equitable access, improving competitiveness and better resource management. The agricultural support programmes and the challenges to agrarian water were summarised. DALA recommended changes to the allocations and pricing and suggested better quality measures.

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) submission
Ms Barbara Schreiner (Deputy Director General, DWAF) reported that although good quality water was reticulated in the metropolitan areas there were other areas with poor quality of water This arose from lack of understanding of the requirements of water quality management, inadequate management and monitoring, inadequate asset management, lack of institutional capacity and lack of effective interventions. Raw surface waters in mining and agricultural areas were compromised, and the older treatment technology unable to cope effectively with the issue. Groundwater quality followed a seasonal trend but where there was drought and poor recharge, this could result in poor groundwater quality. There wee also concerns on rural groundwater, where proper treatment of grey water did not take place.

Ms Schreiner summarised the legislative framework for water quality management and resource quality protection. Three documents had been developed with stakeholder input, on which enabled communities to participate in planning to protect water resources, another dealing with catchment forums, and the third setting resource water quality objectives. There was also a legislative framework for dam safety and security. The aims of monitoring were summarised and explained. Technology transfer and technical assistance were given, mainly to local government, DWAF strove to respond to all drinking water quality failures reported, but this was dependent on credible and frequent information.

There had also been improved information dissemination, and drinking water quality management systems had been implemented in four provinces. The regulation initiatives were summarised, together with the timeframes over the next year. Ms Schreiner noted that all water service authorities (WSAs) would be encouraged to draw water safety plans, to ensure safeness of drinking water from source to customer. Surface and groundwater quality information would be freely available from the Department, and several channels of communication had been set up. Schools were being targeted and trained on water related problems, and a health and hygiene strategy had been drawn for approval in July Training would be given to WSAs on sanitation delivery.


Mr JD Arendse (ANC) asked if there were problems with regards to water quality and monitoring and enforcement areas that needed changes in legislation so as to facilitate DWAF’s project to provide the public with good quality water.

Ms Schreiner explained that the real challenges were not around legislative problems, but, rather, around the issue of the lack of capacity and ensuring that proper budgeting was happening.

Ms S Maine (ANC) asked what DWAF was doing to make sure that Bloemhof and Vryburg did not experience water problems in the future. Further, she asked DWAF to explain the previous problems.

Mr L Manus (DWAF) explained that in Bloemhof the residents had complained that the drinking water quality tasted bad and was visibly dirty. He added that research done following the complaints revealed that the reservoir in the area was not properly secured and that dirt had got into the water. He pointed out that DWAF intervened and the reservoir had to be cleaned.

Ms SN Sigcau (UDM) asked if there were mechanisms in place to monitor if municipalities were in fact providing good quality water to the public. Further, she asked what mechanisms were being developed to guarantee water safety in rural areas.

Mr Manus explained that DWAF had developed tools for municipalities to assess if the quality of water provided to local communities was of good quality. He pointed out that this had resulted in an increase of municipalities monitoring the quality of drinking water.

Ms Sigcau wondered who was responsible for providing sanitation in public schools in rural areas.

Ms Schreiner explained that the Provincial Department of Education was responsible for providing sanitation in schools. However, she pointed out that the Department of Water Affairs had been working closely with the Provincial Department of Education in an attempt to support the department and promote the delivery of sanitation in schools.

Mr Ditshetelo asked for DWAF’s comment on the statement that: "The lack of capacity in local municipalities has resulted in some of the water quality requirements being sacrificed."

Mr Grant Mackintosh (Emanti) intervened that if the question to that statement were to find out if local municipalities had been capacitated, the answer would be that local municipalities had still to be capacitated.

Ms Schreiner added that the process of building capacity in local municipalities, which involved long-term processes of training individuals, would take some time.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was interested to know if there was sufficient consensus in South Africa on the concept of good quality water. Further, she asked why there was a need for the improvement of water quality. She enquired if the improvement of water quality meant improving water intended for consumption, or if that extended to raw water as well.

Ms Schreiner explained that when DWAF spoke of reticulated water in municipal systems it was aiming at drinking water quality. She added that there had been discussion as to whether this kind of water should be used to flush toilets. This was unnecessary; but the complexities and the costs of moving to a system in which there were two reticulation systems, one providing drinking water and the other one providing non-drinking water, had not been considered feasible.

Emanti Submission: Assisting Local Government by leveraging existing good practice
Mr Grant Mackintosh (Managing Director, Emanti ) clarified that Emanti was a water and nvironmental engineering services company. He summarised the importance of water quality management, and summarised government responsibilities. He tabled the Water Service Authorities’ self- assessment on drinking water quality. He summarised the various ways in which effective and sustainable water management would be assisted. He outlined the Free State Water Quality Management case study, in particular the supportive intervention approach, and tabled examples of the quality management system, entitled eWQMS to all authorities. These were accessible at the LBNet and were already available at 220 LM’s. Risk management tools were available online, and examples were tabled.

Mr Mackintosh summarised that there existed a need for "one view" that adequately conveyed the status of water systems to different stakeholders. He added that the roll out of quality eWQMS to all water service authorities (WSA) would help advance such an endeavour. Local government often failed not through choice, but because they had not been adequately set up and supported. Many budgeted only R4000 per year for treatment of drinking water, whereas at least R300 000 was needed. There was a need for supportive, simple, robust and reliable tools. The open source approach would provide great opportunity for sector collaboration.

There was regrettably a widespread lack of understanding of water matters, despite the efforts of

the National Water Quality Draft Framework. A survey of the sewage works in the Free State last year found that 51 percent did not function properly and were discharging sewage into the environment. Safety issues were a further concern, with children swimming in the pools, which were unfenced.

Mr Mackintosh then
pointed out that where information is shared across the sector, as it happened in the Free State, people combined their efforts to solve their problems. He explained that with the roll out of the national drinking water quality management system and framework, there was no effort to make sure that drinking water quality was squarely placed on provincial forums, but if this was done, all the role players could contribute towards addressing the problems.


The Chairperson pointed out that the Committee had been confronted with legal challenges between different governmental spheres with regards to pollution, and that different governmental departments had assumed a pattern of blaming each other for pollution. In most instances local government had been challenged in that aspect, and it was clear that mechanisms were required to facilitate better intergovernmental relations.

Counci for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Submission
Dr Marius Claassen (Innovation Fund Coordinator, CSIR) pointed out that the CSIR was involved in areas such as data collection, the development of monitoring programmes and the development of guidelines for monitoring programmes. He explained that the CSIR had about 40 researchers working around the issue of water resources, and that the organisation had 55 researchers who were conducting research work around the issue of pollution and waste. He tabled a diagram of how the research could contribute to sustainable development and socio-economic development, and the scope of the research. Current water quality assessment was lacking in regulation, process technologies and financial incentives, and mercury, radioactivity, endocrine disruptors, organics and toxicity affected water quality.

CSIR research supported socio-economic development by assisting DWAF with policy, strategy and instruments, water and food security issues, and securing safe drinking water; he mentioned the projects in Elands River and Free State, as well as the rural drinking water programme that aimed to monitor points of supply and points of use. Technology transfer, technical assistance and dissemination of information were undertaken by CSIR through reports, schoolbooks and reports on drinking water quality. He summarised the resources for research, CSIR capacity and its strategy.

See below: both CSIR and Water Research Council commented on questions at the same time.

Water Research Council (WRC) submissions
Mr Gerhard Offringa (Research Manager, WRC) explained that the WRC, which was a parastatal, funded and outsourced research on all aspects of water. WRC spent about R9-million a year on water quality related projects, which engaged stakeholders and partners in solving water-related problems. It was currently funding 39 projects. He pointed out that the urban water quality was good, but there remained problems in rural areas.

WRC would produce research reports, guidelines and manuals, examples of which were tabled. WRC also produced technologies developed for rural supply. He presented the results of a survey into rural water, which highlighted some of the problems. All the problems emanated from insufficient management skills and motivation, insufficient operations staff skills and motivation, and insufficient funding. He noted that the operators of the systems were of prime importance. He believed that expert teams should be established in each province, similar to what had been done in Free State, establish management and technical assistance centres, improve the training salaries and working conditions of operations staff, implement DWAF’s water quality management system, ensure that a percentage of municipal funding was applied to safe water provision, and supporting all efforts with research.


Questions relating to CSIR and WRC were handled together as there were many cross-issues.

The Chairperson asked what role were the CSIR and the WRC playing in relation to the implementation chapters of the national water resources strategy.

Dr Claassen (CSIR) explained that the national water resources strategy was the blue print for the CSIR research strategy. He added that the CSIR conducted research in support of the national water resources strategy. He pointed out that the CSIR was involved in areas such as data collection and the development of monitoring programmes and the development of guidelines for monitoring programmes.

Mr Offringa (WRC) pointed out that the WRC was a research funding organisation. He explained that the WRC assists DWAF in doing whatever research was required within the national water resources strategy.

Ms Maine explained that she was concerned because there was a lot of research work being done, while on the other hand, very few water quality problems were being resolved. She asked what was being done with the information being researched.

Dr Claassen explained that through research the CSIR had uncovered information that was not previously available. He pointed out that the research had helped the CSIR to identify challenges and problems surrounding drinking water quality. This did not mean that these were new challenges and new problems, but rather identified existing challenges for the first time.

Mr P Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked both organisations to briefly share with the Committee some of the recommendations they had put forward in their research work with regards to drinking water quality.

Ms J Semple (DA) asked the WRC to explain why the drinking water quality in the Free State was superior compared to other provinces. She pointed out that the WRC had recommended that other provinces should, like the Free State, establish working teams. She asked how these teams came to be in the Free State, who comprised the teams and who paid the teams. Ms Semple further asked WRC to explain to the Committee whether relevant provinces had taken seriously their recommendation that other provinces establish similar kinds of teams.

Mr Offringa explained that the WRC wanted to bring their Free State model recommendations to the attention of the Committee, mainly because at the moment relevant provinces were doing nothing about it. WRC was hoping that the Committee would assist them in their campaign to get other provinces to adopt the Free State model. The team model was a joint effort of different departments and consisted of researchers.

The Chairperson pointed out that it was often said that South Africa had the least resources, despite its substantial population, compared to other countries. She asked if there were any security problems with regards to water posed by such a situation. Further, she wondered if there was enough research work being done around the issue of water security.

Dr Claassen pointed out that one of the key factors identified by the CSIR in water resources government systems was "trans-boundary water resources management". He explained that this term meant that it was not sufficient to manage water effectively in a province or in a country without extending to "trans-boundary water resources management".

Ms Sigcau explained that she was concerned about the drinking water quality in the Eastern Cape. She asked what measures were being taken to improve the drinking water quality in the Eastern Cape.

Mr Offringa clarified that the WRC was a research-funding organisation. He explained that the WRC assisted DWAF in doing whatever research was required within the national water resources strategy, and that it was not up to the WRC to implement mechanisms to improve drinking water quality.

Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) Submissions
Ms Liane Greeff (Water Justice Programme Manager, EMG) summarised the resolutions coming out of the first multi-stakeholder symposium in 2001. She summarised the issues raised in the WCD report "Dams and Development" of November 2000. The priorities were addressed in seven strategic priorities. The substantive report was approved in October 2004 and published in March 2005. This analytical approach compared South African policy and practice against the report and found that there were many overlaps, but that stakeholders were willing to approach tasks with open minds. She stated that the first priority was to address existing dams and their social issues, with a view to exploring and implementing mechanisms for recognising entitlement and sharing benefits for new dams. The second priority was enhancing governance of water and energy resources development, and the third promoting river health and sustainable environments. An additional priority was promoting regional good governance. She noted that the planning approach with regards to the construction of new dams did not consider the options’ assessment in an attempt to find the best use of water in a water-insecure country. She pointed out that about 67 percent of South African water was utilised for agriculture, but at the same time, the farming practices in South Africa were inefficient.

The way forward, to be promoted by a new committee elected in October 2004, was to publicise the reports, to encourage adoption of the recommendations, to involve all players, and to improve the decision making on dams.


The Chairperson asked the EMG to clarify the statement attributed to a former Minister that "DWAF was planning to build 20 dams in 20 years for R20-billion." The Chairperson believed that it was the media who came up with that statement. She asked the EMG to specify which Minister talked about R20-billion for 20 dams within a period of 20 years.

Ms Greeff did not have the detailed references with her at the time. She pointed out that the national water resources strategy spoke of either 19 or 18 dams. She explained that the issue was not around the figures, but rather the planning approach.

Ms Greeff elaborated that the planning approach did not consider the options assessment in an attempt to find the best use of water in a water insecure country. She emphasised that about 67% of South African was used for agriculture, but at the same time, the farming practises in South Africa were inefficient. She added that it was possible to have a better use of the water that South Africa had without building new dams.

South African Local Government Association (SALGA) submission
Mr Sipho Musayi (SALGA) summarised the challenges faced by local government in meeting water quality standards. He stated that the potential for problems already started with the abstraction of raw water. Wastewater and hazardous waste sites had negative impact. He summarised the process involved in the national drinking water quality standard, and the registration of discharge authorisations. He stated that challenges faced by WSAs with regard to drinking water quality included that there was a lack of understanding of legislative requirements, service delivery to smaller towns, management and monitoring of drinking water quality standards. Poor infrastructure. Institutional capacity problems and lack of appropriate interventions compounded the problems. The standards were rigorous and would go far to ensuring safety of water. However, those standards needed the correct systems to support them.

Mr Musayi summarised the monitoring systems used by local government, and mentioned the landmark programme in Free State, initiated through its DLG. He then commented on the financial resources needed by local government, and what would be needed to provide acceptable drinking water quality. Finally he tabled his recommendations, which included highlighting the profile of water quality management, creating awareness, implementation of drinking water situational assessments, consultative audits, and interventions by DWAF, including emergency responses

Ms Semple pointed out that it was all well to state that there were other budgetary items that required more urgent attention as compared to drinking water quality, but the fact of the matter was that the South African population relied on good quality water. She asked if South Africa could afford not to maintain good quality water for its citizens, and not to carry out the water testing that were supposed to be done on the regular basis.

Mr Musayi agreed that it was not to the South African government’s best interests to not provide good quality water to the public. He explained that the solution should not come from SALGA, but instead the solution should come from the water services industry.

The Chairperson pointed out that SALGA was behaving as if South Africa woke up to water quality issues just yesterday. She explained that the Committee would want to be convinced that there was a continuation as far as providing good quality drinking water to the public. She asked SALGA to explain what plans they had in store to fulfil such an endeavour and what timeframe were they operating in.

Mr Musayi explained that if one looked at metros, SALGA had implemented a ten-year plan to deal with wastewater treatment compliance. He added that, however, it was difficult to see those programmes through without financial backing, and without properly trained staff it was almost impossible to deal with the challenges of actually implementing such programmes.

Department of Education Submission
Ms Lucy Moyane (Chief Director, DOE) stated that education in water matters would teach learners to handle the natural water resources diligently in an environment of water scarcity. She tabled examples of references to water in the National Curriculum, in the areas of Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Technology, and Life Orientation. She summarised the types of activities that learners would need to undertake and what they would learn in each component. She noted that the way in which the assessment standards had been formulated allowed for a wide range of possible interpretations and applications.

No specific questions were put on this presentation.

Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs Submission
Dr Shadreck Moephuli (Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs (DALA)) pointed out that DALA’s mission was to lead and support sustainable agriculture and promote rural development. This could bew achieved by equitable access and participation, improvement of global competitiveness, and ensuring existing resource management. A post-settlement support and a comprehensive agriculture support programme could achieve Land and agrarian reform. Dr Moephuli summarised the main features of the agricultural support programme, and summarised that profitability could be increased through land reform, rehabilitation, irrigation and concentrated farming in different areas. He then summarised the challenges to agrarian water and stated that there was a need to re-examine 36 old allocations and deal with new allocations. Water pricing was also a major concern. Quality was affected by pollution and over-exploitation, as shown by the Berg River Study, which he tabled in some depth. He tabled proposals to address quality and possible solutions.

The meeting was adjourned.




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