South Africa;s drought will prompt businesses to manage their water risk more carefully -- photo credit: Scott Ramsay

South Africa;s drought will prompt businesses to manage their water risk more carefully — photo credit: Scott Ramsay

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane signed a water co-operation agreement with Italy that will allow South Africa to collaborate on projects that will help improve SA’s management of its water resources.

The project aims to improve capacity building‚ technology transfer and technical assistance regarding matters of water quality enhancement‚ water service management, water resource management‚ and rural sanitation technology.

Who will benefit from the project

The South African government said the project will focus on ensuring that the water sector is transformed by including women and the youth. The government added that another key focus was food security.

At the signing of the agreement, Mokonyane said“…we hope that by coming into this agreement with Italy‚ the set objectives will be realised.”

The Italians were pleased at the agreement as Barbara Degani, Italy’s Deputy Minister of Environment‚ Land and Sea said that working with SA “will be a great opportunity for transferring expertise to fight climate change.” He added that the idea was to implement the agreement to benefit the people of both countries‚ “especially women and the youth”.

Water resource management in SA

SA is regarded as the 30th most water scarce country in the world. Government has on several occasions stated that the country is facing various challenges with the management of its water resources.

Some of the most pertinent issues raised focus on pollution and resource quality, water security for social and economic development, and service quality.

“These concerns must be addressed as they have major social, economic, environmental, legal and political impacts on our lives and businesses,” government said in its National Water Resource Strategy.

An advanced water management approach has been devised to help manage the country’s water resources and has identified critical factors and principles that include the following:

  • Water status needs to be elevated as the critical resource and primary element of decision making.
  • Water resources planning and management must be integrated and aligned with all growth and development as well as social and government outcome strategies.
  • Water is everybody’s business.  Water management requires active water sector involvement, accountability, commitment and ownership.  It will require effective partnerships and teams.
  • Water management is a complex business which requires improved sector management, governance, control, co-ordination and leadership.
  • Water is not only a technical business.  It also needs to include business principles and approaches such as sustainable management, financial management, service delivery and customer care, institutional arrangements, communication and continuous tactical and strategic planning.
  • A priority is to invest in people and associated skills and capacity building – from the public to national government.
  • Improved water sector knowledge, research, monitoring and evaluation are key aspects of the extended business.
  • The issue of water security has put a new emphasis on the concepts “value chain” and “life cycle”.  In the planning and the provisioning of water, the challenge in many cases is not just a resource issue but a supply and delivery issue. This requires holistic and integrated management and governance.

In SA’s favour, the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) (NWA), as per section 5(1) demands the establishment, maintenance and implementation of such a strategy.