Water Conservation: Departments of Provincial & Local Government and Water & Forestry briefings

Water and Sanitation

27 May 2008
Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Departments of Provincial Local Government (DPLG) and Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) briefed the Committee on water conservation measures. DPLG briefed the Committee on the role of municipalities in water services provision and water conservation. The current situation was described as unsustainable, since there was lack of clarity on the roles of stakeholders, lack of organisational capacity in municipalities, and lack of clear and common principles. The Department was to clarify the roles and responsibilities, and would work with sector departments. Municipalities were to draw a Water Services Development Plan, and this would help to monitor conservation progress as well as ensuring effective, accessible and sustainable water services. Challenges included illegal water connection and inappropriate tariffs. The Water Services Act called on local government to take into account alternative ways of providing access to water services, the need for regional efficiency and the need for low costs. The White Paper on Local Government envisaged that communities should also become involved and hold municipalities accountable. Members asked what was being done to implement the processes described, how the infrastructure was to be improved, how leakages were dealt with and whether audits were being done.

DWAF
stated that water availability in South Africa did not meet requirements, and that there was a need to conserve water. There was a need to incentivise water conservation. The various programmes of the Department included community programmes in which plumbers were trained, collaborative partnerships with municipalities, community water education programmes, assistance to farmers and roll out of incentives and efficient schemes. Bursaries were being offered to students who had identified water problems and designed solutions. The challenges included lack of common understanding and uniformity, limited commitment to the programmes, infighting over appointment of consultants, funds not always being directed to the correct ends and failure to comply with set management standards. It was noted that municipalities would need to submit project implementation plans by the end of June. Members asked about leaking of water from dams, loss through open canals, the infestation of water sources by alien plants, the metering system, whether there were monitoring mechanisms for access to water in provinces, the poor municipal infrastructure and what criteria were being used, and whether the legislation was sufficient. Members felt that more education and awareness was necessary and all stakeholders must be involved.

Meeting report

Water Conservation: Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) briefing
The Chairperson noted that Agriculture South Africa and Business South Africa should be questioned as to their non-attendance, which was not considered acceptable.

Ms Cindy Damos, Senior Manager, DPLG briefed the Committee on the role of municipalities in water conservation. She stated that the basic role of municipalities was the provision of basic municipal services to ensure acceptable and reasonable quality of life, including provision of water. Ms Damos stated that the current situation as unsustainable, for a number of reasons, including lack of clarity on the responsibilities of stakeholders in the provision of services. There was often lack of proper planning and monitoring. There were insufficient guidelines on support, lack of organizational capacity on the part of municipalities, and lack of clear common principles on sustainability of water delivery. The Department was to clarify the roles and responsibilities, and would work with sector departments.

Ms Damos said the Water Services Act required municipalities to draw a Water Services Development Plan (WSDP) to ensure proper planning for service provision. She said the WSDP helped monitor water conservation progress as well as ensuring effective, accessible and sustainable water services.
Every water services authority has a duty to all consumers or potential consumers in its area of jurisdiction to progressively ensure efficient, affordable, economical and sustainable access to water services. The challenges included illegal water connection and inappropriate tariffs.

The Water Services Act called on local government to
take into account alternative ways of providing access to water services, the need for regional efficiency and the need for low costs. This allowed authorities to explore different levels of service and also the introduction of integrated regional demand management strategies. The first step would be to implement water loss management. This must be supported by adequate revenue management and payment of services. There must be appropriate tariffs to reflect the real value of water, and this would encourage conservation. There must be improved planning through the Water Services Development Plans and establishment of partnerships would also assist.

Ms Damos indicated that the
White Paper on Local Government visualised a process where communities would be involved in governance matters, including planning, implementation and performance monitoring and review, and would thus hold municipalities accountable. Where ward committees existed they must also be involved. Partnerships for infrastructure delivery would assist, and possibilities included public / private partnerships (PPP), municipal entities, contracting out or use of community development workers. All spheres of government must play a part. 

Discussion

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Damos on her statements from the presentation and asked what was being done around the country to ensure implementation of what she had stated.

Ms Damos said there were no incentives yet in place but that some municipalities had water saving incentives.

Mr J Combrinck (ANC) said that municipalities often did not pay service providers. He said that there were problems in infrastructure, mainly pipelines, sewage farms and dams. He noted that the money allocated by Treasury was not being used to provide water services.

Ms Damos agreed that infrastructure affected municipal water management and that DPLG had a plan for infrastructure management.

Mr M Swathe (DA) asked if WSDP was implemented in all municipalities and also wanted to know how the department was dealing with pipeline leakages for water conservation.

Ms Damos said she was aware of pipeline leakages in places like Limpopo and Mpumalanga, adding that early warning systems had worked in some places, and municipal employees had identified leaks and dealt with them appropriately. She said that there were limitations but there was need for community involvement in the form of working with retired engineers and the public.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked how DPLG assisted struggling municipalities, as consultants were used yet municipalities’ officials often had little understanding of the situation.

Ms C Van der Walt (ANC) asked if the department had done an audit on the condition of pipelines and if there was a programme in place to fix them. She added that each municipality should present the Committee with an audit.

The Chairperson asked if the community development structure was being used optimally in constituencies.

Ms Damos said the department had training in wards and that there was dire need for engagement by various sectors. Workshops had been held and easy to read guidelines were provided.

Department Of Water Affairs And Forestry (DWAF) Briefing
Mr Thabo Masike, Deputy Director, DWAF, briefed the Committee on the National Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Plan. He stated that water availability in South Africa did not meet requirements. He added that the deficit had to be met as water was a critical resource in all sectors of life.

Mr Masike said the department had a R70 million budget for social, economic, technical and legislative interventions to deal with water conservation. He added that there a need to reward water users with incentives for water conservation measures. Mr Masike outlined the achievements for 2007/08. These included community programmes that included training of plumbers to install water efficient devices and deal with leakages.  The Department also had a collaborative partnership with twenty seven municipalities across all provinces. There was also a community water education programme that had had a positive response. In addition the Department dealt with farmers who were encouraged to use conveyance systems in their irrigation systems as they would help in tracing water usage and wastage, thus helping in conservation. He said the Department had rolled out efficient systems and incentives schemes to promote water saving irrigation systems.

Ms Nangamso Breakfast, Deputy Director: Water Use Efficiency, DWAF, then continued with the presentation, telling the Committee that water savings would not happen overnight. She described some of the programmes used to promote water conservation, and noted that the Department had also organized drama and singing competitions with a theme of ‘Water Conservation’. Collaborative partnerships with different sectors and relevant stakeholders had proved to be of crucial importance. Ms Breakfast also said the Department had a website from which information on water conservation was disseminated. She described the community awareness and education campaign. The Department was offering bursaries to students who had identified water problems in their communities and designed solutions to deal with the problems.  The students were sponsored for tertiary education in water related courses. She also mentioned the Blue Bus campaign which was a nation wide water conservation awareness programme.

She noted some of the challenges. These included lack of common understanding and uniformity, limited commitment to the programmes, infighting over appointment of consultants, funds not always being directed to the correct ends and failure to comply with set management standards.

She then tabled the list of municipalities who would be beneficiaries, and set out some of the criteria and explained the project planning and implementation processes. All municipalities were to submit their project implementation plans by end June. There would be continued support and monitoring and evaluation by DWAF, who would also ensure that the performance was linked to the financial support given.

Discussion
Mr Combrinck (ANC) said that DWAF had to deal with water leaking in Northern Cape dams to save water.

Mr Masike said dams were being maintained by municipalities to guard efficiency and safety of water.

Mr Arendse asked if the Department could determine how much water was lost through open canals.

Mr Masike said the situation was being assessed and that it would be determined how much water could be saved.

Mr Arendse said a study had indicated that there was a high rate of alien plants infesting water sources and asked if there was anything being done to deal with the situation.

Mr Masike said the situation was being studied and that relevant measures would be put in place to deal with the problem.

Mr Mosala asked if the universal metering system was to use prepaid or monthly payments and also what kind of meters were to be used.

Mr Masike said magnetic flow meters had proved effective in water conservation. He added that the department had a guideline study and information system for all meters that had potential to be used.

Mr Masike asked what was the prize for the students involved in the competitions under water conservation.

Ms Breakfast said prizes included bursaries, computers and cash.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) asked if municipalities had any monitoring mechanism for access to water in provinces.

Mr Masike said all was being done to ensure service delivery especially to far off communities.
 
Ms Bhengu said that municipalities did not have water infrastructure and she wanted to know which criteria was used to benefit communities.

Mr Masike admitted that the infrastructure was not enough and that some areas had been overlooked.

The Chairperson said the Department should look at some other proposals, such as getting involved in television advertisements for water conservation. She asked if the Department had any future plans to use television and radio stations in their water conservation awareness campaign.

Ms Breakfast said she supported the idea of television and radio advertising.

The Chairperson wanted to know if legislation was sufficient to support water conservation.

Mr Masike said legislation was only felt when there had already been a problem. He believed that water conservation should be treated similar to water services in legislation.

The Chairperson said she endorsed the fact that much had to be done for education and awareness about water conservation. She felt that relevant stakeholders had to contribute in finding ways of water conservation. The Chairperson also said the Committee could engage with the Department on the issue of legislation. She welcomed the moves towards youth involvement as it encouraged change in the way people thought about water conservation.

The meeting was adjourned.

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