Johannesburg - To ensure there is sufficient water available for generations to come and that economic activity in the country is able to grow, government has launched the Water for Growth and Development Framework.
The framework 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.
Launched on Monday by the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry Lindiwe Hendricks, the framework will ensure that the central role of water is promoted as a cross-sectoral input that supports social development, economic growth and ecological sustainability.
"There must be sufficient water available for us to achieve our economic growth target. At the same time we need to ensure that we meet the targets for universal access to water.
"These goals have to be achieved in a way that we do not compromise the ecological sustainability of the resource," Minister Hendricks said.
The framework is the result of consultations over the last two years with key players in the water sector, whose input lead to the development and finalisation of the framework.
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.
"We are going to have to make some very difficult and bold decisions in the way we harness and allocate the available resources, which will have to be different to the way we have done this in the past," Ms Hendricks said.
She noted there had been a number of concerns raised regarding the country's current and future water security.
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.
"For example, if the remedial action was not taken by government, Gauteng could start experiencing water shortages from 2013 and by 2025, the area would experience severe widespread shortages.
"Fortunately this will not happen given the recent decision by cabinet to proceed with the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project subject to the conclusion of a protocol with the government of Lesotho," the minister said.
She said the department was 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.