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South Africa: Department of Water and Sanitation leads Public Consultations on the third edition of the National Water Resource Strategy

Department of Water and Sanitation, Republic of South Africa

Dr Sean Phillips, the Director-General of the Department of Water and Sanitation, led public consultations with various stakeholders in the water sector pertaining to the third edition of the National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS-3). The consultations follow a Government Gazette notice issued by the Minister of Water and Sanitation on 29 July 2022. The consultations are part of the public comments required for the third edition of the National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS-3) within 90 days.

The NWRS is currently the legal instrument for implementing or operationalising the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) and it is thus binding on all authorities and institutions implementing the Act. It is the primary mechanism to manage water across all sectors towards achieving national government’s development objectives. The first NWRS was published in 2004 and the second edition (NWRS-2) was published in 2013 and was the blueprint for water resources management in South Africa.

In his keynote address at the public consultations, DG Phillips highlighted a new reality of climate change which has posed a threat to water security in the country, which in turn has a knock-on effect on sectors such as agriculture, health and energy that are highly reliant on water.

“The third edition of the NWRS should consider the risks posed by climate change. Those risks should also be integrated into short, medium, and long-term water and sanitation sector strategies and planning. Mainstreaming of climate change considerations in town planning as well as water planning and management is therefore very important”, said Dr Phillips.

Following the initial plenary, the stakeholders broke into three commissions to discuss various issues affecting the water sector.

Commission One included Increasing Water Supply, Managing Effective Water&Sanitation Services, Regulating the Water&Sanitation Sector, and Redistributing Water for Transformation. Commission Two focused on Managing Water&Sanitation under a Changing Climate and Improving Raw Water Quality, Protecting&Restoring Ecological Infrastructure, among other things.

Commission Three deliberated on Promoting International Cooperation, Building Capacity for Action, Ensuring Financial Sustainability, Creating Effective Water Sector Institutions, and Addressing Legislative&Policy Gaps. Some of the resolutions that came from the various commissions included an emphasis on public and private partnerships, intergovernmental partnerships, as well as among the citizens.

Other commentary included science-based limits being essential for water use licenses, as well as the need to carefully understand changes in water quality. There was a call on Catchment Management Agencies (CMA) to ensure their stewardship projects will be inclusive of all stakeholders and to regulate tariff zero-based budgeting.

It was also suggested that the Water Research Act be reviewed to cover issues around climate change and water availability.

Acting Deputy Director-General (aDDG) for Infrastructure Leonardo Manus took to the podium to close off the day’s event.

In his closing remarks, he echoed many of the sentiments brought forward by the commissions and those who participated online.

Matjhabeng Local Municipality was a sore point in the discussion with many pointing out that interventions have been made in the past but with no change.

“In Matjhabeng we moved into it with a different attitude, we won’t just issue simple directives anymore. The Minister has established a water services commission, which is a first and an implementing agent was appointed.”

Manus said the biggest problem now in the area is vandalism.

“Infrastructure is currently being fixed; however, the biggest problem is vandalism and looting of infrastructure”, he said.

Mr Manus encouraged the public to participate in the 90-day window for public comments.

“There is a chance to make the document stronger and better. Public participation will close on 29 October and in between public participation sessions will be arranged to educate and inform the public. The document as it stands is available on the DWS website,” Manus concluded.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Department of Water and Sanitation, Republic of South Africa.

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