Govt framework on water security welcomed

Friday, March 27, 2009

Johannesburg - The Water for Growth and Development Framework has been welcomed by various stakeholders in addressing water security in the country.

The framework, which was launched by Water Affairs Minister Lindiwe Hendricks on 2 March, is expected to map out a course of action to ensure that there is sufficient water to support South Africa's growth trajectory and development.

It will also ensure that the central role of water is promoted as a cross-sectoral input that supports social development, economic growth and ecological sustainability.

Water availability and quality have been negatively affected by illegal abstraction, water pollution and the poor management of water resources infrastructure, which has culminated in severe water shortages in some places, major health impacts and environmental damage.

President of AgriSA Johannes Moller welcomed the department's initiative in coming up with a framework, saying it would set a foundation for the development of water management strategy.

Mr Moller called on commercial farmers to use water efficiently and abide by the National Water Act.

He also called for the protection of water quality by prosecuting polluters and recommended an implementation of pollution training programme. "Water Pollution in rivers is a real concern for commercial farmers, export markets are in danger as the markets are threatening to pull out."

In order to achieve equitable access to water, at least 30 percent of water should be given to previously disadvantaged areas and underdeveloped farmers, suggested Mr Moller.

Regarding saving water among farmers, Mr Moller said it was expensive to buy technology to control high use of water in irrigation.

National African Farmers Union President Motsepe Matlala also congratulated the department for coming up with a framework, but urged the department to look at the issue of water availability for land beneficiaries.

He cautioned that the issues of water rights were not linked to land rights.

"Land beneficiaries fall in a trap and buy farms without water. I challenge the department to ensure that the land bought by government and given to people have water so that the farmers can become productive," Mr Matlala said.

He said there was a need to implement water allocation strategy as well as to develop strict regulation for water polluters.

Speaking on behalf of Chamber of Mines, Nikisi Lesufi said the sector was willing to work with the department to deal with challenges facing water in the mining sector.

"We need more innovative ideas on how to deal with the issues. The mining sector support the department's initiative but the document must still provide sufficient information on how the mining can develop sustainable options," Mr Lesufi said.

Director General in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Pam Yako said acid mine drainage was impacting negatively on water quality.

"There is a need for critically assessing reasons for persistent backlogs and strategy to address in concert with delivery partners as well as changing water use behaviour for the future by finding the right mix of mechanisms to effect change in behaviour, self regulatory and market based instruments including awareness and education," she said.

Ageing water infrastructure, poor regulation in terms of compliance and enforcement, the unlawful use of water, lack of technical skills and human resources as well as impact of climate change were among the challenges the department is trying to find solutions to.

The framework was considered and approved by Cabinet in January 2009 for the department to continue to engage with stakeholders regarding its implementation and recommendations.

Through the framework, the department will pursue a course of action that will ensure that informed decisions and trade-offs with regard to water use are taken in support of any cross-sectoral planning and development initiatives.

The department is also exploring the most cost-effective and appropriate options to augment the country's water supply.

This would be done as a complementary alternative to the current ones such as water loss control, water conservation and demand management, effluent re-use or effluent recycling, desalination for coastal locations and ground water abstraction.

Expense augmentation schemes such as the construction of dams and inter basin water transfers will not be preferred.