On the 3rd of July 2013, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa launched the final version of the Second National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS2), following Cabinet’s approval of the plan the week before.
The draft NWRS2 was published in the Government Gazette for public comment in September last year and extensive public consultations were held between the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and stakeholders. The NWRS is the legal instrument for implementing the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) and is binding on all authorities and institutions who implement the Act.
The Minister stated that since the first edition of the strategy was published in 2004, new challenges, including security of supply, environmental degradation, resource pollution and the inefficient use of water, had emerged, adding that various changes had occurred in the country’s water landscape, which called for a new approach.
The NWRS2 sets out the vision, principles, goals and strategic actions for achieving effective water management; with a major focus on equitable and sustainable access and use by all South Africans. “Equity and redistribution will be achieved through the authorisation process and other mechanisms and programmes, such as water allocation reform, financial support to emerging farmers and support to urban and rural economic development initiatives,” she told members of the media at a briefing.
The NWRS2 was also geared towards three key objectives, namely to ensure that water supported development and the elimination of poverty and inequality; that it contributed to the economy and job creation; and that it is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner.
In this way, the strategy responded to South Africa’s vision for 2030, as set out in the National Development Plan, which discusses the national development goal of eradicating poverty and sharply reducing inequality by 2030.
“Water supply in our country has largely been tied to surface water and its development. Reconciliation strategies that have been developed by the DWA, which assess the water balance against future needs will inform our future resource planning, management and investment in all provinces,” Molewa said.
The NWRS2 emphasises that efforts must be intensified to reduce preventable water losses. Molewa referred to recent research published by the Water Research Commission (WRC), which indicated that water losses for urban supply systems were at 36.8% over the past six years, equal to 1.58-billion cubic metres a year or about R11-billion.
“This is naturally of great concern for a country such as ours that is water stressed. It is encouraging to note that some municipalities and other water services authorities have begun to address the issue of water losses,” the Minister said.
Included in the strategic actions set out in the NWRS2 was that the DWA would prioritise cooperating with municipalities, water boards and catchment management agencies to systematically develop and implement sound operating rules for all water supply systems in South Africa.
The DWA would also work with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to ensure that appropriate conditions were placed on mining licence holders to ensure that mines treated acid mine drainage (AMD) to a suitable standard. The DWA’s reconciliation strategies would also incorporate treated AMD as an additional recourse, where appropriate.
“I am also confident that the entire water sector and indeed all other sectors will embrace this plan and walk this path with us in taking water resource management in our country to the next level,” the Minister enthused.