Placing water management at the top of our agenda – the WRC elaborates
A lot of questions have been raised as to whether there is a need for more financial injection to up the game of water in South Africa. According to Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of the Water Research Commission (WRC), it is not an unreasonable estimate to say that the country needs some half a trillion rands for the next ten years to fund both water resources development, renewal (rehabilitation) and maintenance (approximately one third of the estimate), and extension of water and sanitation services (approximately two thirds of the estimate) for universal coverage in South Africa.
Naidoo says that it is likely that there will be an overall increase in water tariffs, but with a tariff structure that is escalating; with the larger burden on the less efficient and excessive users and providing relief for the more water-wise users and the poor. Naidoo further says that it is also important that we look at water tariffs and associate them with infrastructure development as an investment in the next generation having an assurance of supply, within a sustainable development paradigm. We can choose to have only a short-term view on this, which will only increase the price and decrease the options for safe water and sanitation access for future generations.
Naidoo bases his comments on previous studies, in particular, the UNECA report of 1999, which characterised South Africa as a water-stressed country in that year, and predicted that, given the water-use behaviour and economic growth parameters at the time, South Africa would be a water-scarce country by 2025. In addition, a study emanating from WRC project concluded that the total water availability in South Africa in 2002 was 13.209 billion cubic metres per annum and demand was already 13.084 billion cubic metres per annum. It is quite likely that without infrastructure development and renewal, and combined with a radical change in water use behaviour, we will indeed reach a state of water-related hardship. In a country that has ambitious economic development targets and large energy needs assurance of water supply is critical.
Commenting on the implications of the reduction in the number of Catchment Management Agencies, Eiman Karar, Director for Water Resource Management at the WRC, indicated that there is no harm in doing so since the National Water Act makes provision for dividing the country along hydrological boundaries called Water Management Areas (WMA). In each WMA there is to be a citizen-based decentralised Catchment Management Agency (CMA). The CMA is governed by a board which has sectoral-representation for negotiating allocation issues as well as for conducting normal board judiciary duties. Obviously, the smaller the operational area of the CMA, the more intense the public participation could be. In the presence of 9 CMAs instead of 19 CMAs, special attention would have to be paid to strengthening other lower-tier water management institutions (in support of stakeholder participation) allowed for in the NWA such as Catchment Committees, Water User Associations as well as the (not specifically mentioned in the National Water Act but quite prevalent in SA) informal Catchment Forums.
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