Molewa: Focus on water equity

2012-05-16 20:08

Cape Town - The government is pushing ahead with plans to create "equity" in the distribution of water resources, water affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Wednesday.

"We have now deemed it necessary that an equity enforcing mechanism be developed, which should focus particularly on access, or lack of it, to safe drinking water by poor historically-disadvantaged communities," she said.

Briefing the media at Parliament ahead of debate in the National Assembly on her department's budget, Molewa said this was an area that had "suffered neglect" over the past 18 years.

However, there was a problem because 98% of the country's water was already allocated, which made finding water for new users difficult.

"If you need to allocate additional water... for domestic use, then you have to... find it from allocated users."

Entitlement holders

But you could not simply take this already-allocated water. In terms of the Water Act, allocated users had water-use entitlements, including the right to sell their entitlements.

"There are entitlements by holders and it therefore becomes difficult to re-allocate, given these entitlement holders' ability and right to sell.

"So you need some mechanism that really somehow reverses this practice, especially with regard to the selling of the entitlements."

Currently, entitlement holders were registered as water users. The department could also allocate water using the licence process.

"But we have been doing this for quite a while. It still doesn't continuously give you additional water... it doesn't give you what you need to re-allocate.

"This is why, in some areas, developments are at a standstill waiting for allocation of water. Those entitlements are with [other users]. We can't allocate what is already allocated.

"So clearly we need some mechanism. This we are thinking very hard about. What we know is that it's going to end up with some amendment of the legislation that we have, to allow this process to happen."

Major changes

In April, Molewa signalled there would be major changes to policies and laws regulating water use. She said it was necessary to carefully consider developing "a national redress and equity water strategy" to help the poor access quality water and sanitation.

Currently, the agriculture sector consumes most (62%) of the water allocated in the country, with a further 27% allocated for domestic use (23% for urban and 4% for rural areas) and 2.5% for mining.

The industrial sector is allocated 10%, including 3.5% for industries, 2% for power generation and 3% for afforestation. Each sector pays different rates for water.

Molewa said at the time that her department was reviewing the National Water Act, the Water Services Act and the Water Research Act.

On Wednesday, she said her department had made "serious inroads" into reducing the backlog of applications for water-use authorisations and licences.

"We have finalised 1 049 applications by means of our backlog application project," she said.

Also on Wednesday, the department said illegal abstraction of water by farmers remained a huge problem in some parts of the country.

Water losses

According to water affairs chief operations officer Trevor Balzer, in the Upper-Vaal catchment alone farmers illegally abstract about 180 million cubic metres of water a year, with an estimated value of R66.4m.

He said the agriculture sector would not necessarily be targeted when it came to re-allocation of water to support development in disadvantaged communities.

Some municipalities were experiencing water losses as high as 30% or 40%, and this would be tackled first.

  • Marvel Mushavhela - 2012-05-16 22:03

    I would like ti firstly congratulate the Minister of WA on this regard for implementing an alternative way forward toward reaching a goal to deliver water services to rural community. However, i think the minister have every power to bridge the law of Water Act and Water Research Act. She needs to put both her foot together well pulling this cart. I can imagine struggling to find just 200ml of drinkable water for the baby or the ailing family member, its surely should be illusive to make a daily life for those communities. If there's no dam around, bore the holes as many as you can, we are talking about the basic need for one to survive here. Yet you see more politicians drinking mineral bottled water only to be thrown away after just o sip or even a sniff..PULL UP YOUR SOCKS MINISTER!!!

  • Mike - 2012-05-16 22:36

    The reality that is to come is the same as the system being used in Zim. When our esteemed government realize that it takes continuous careful planning and project execution to maintain or improve municipal water services (unlike the destruction that has become commonplace) they will decide it is "inequitable" to struggle so they will begin to divert supply from the farms, suburbs and businesses to route this to the townships where no-one will pay for it. The cycle of decay will accelerate as less and less money is collected by municipalities until the entire system collapses completely. With R1.1bn already owed to water boards and virtually no competent staff left there is already zero chance of the wastage within municipalities being resolved.

  • Ryno - 2012-05-17 11:32

    "But you could not simply take this already-allocated water. In terms of the Water Act, allocated users had water-use entitlements, including the right to sell their entitlements. "There are entitlements by holders and it therefore becomes difficult to re-allocate, given these entitlement holders' ability and right to sell." Does this mean that they were planning on just "taking" it in any case??

  • gailcarolynhayes - 2012-05-17 13:27

    I am so glad that the minister is addressing this issue as it is one I have been giving a great deal of thought to myself. Purely from a climatic point of view we do not fall within an area of high rainfall. I kind of grew up on a farm and all we had was dams and windmills and of coursr rainfall during good years. Every single drop of water needed came from those resources and was reused, recycled etc. Rainfall Water was caught from the roofs of our home and stored in deep and substantial water tanks and it had to be manually pumped when required for household purposes. I believe that the Minister should be looking at equipping each RDP home with the necessary means to capture rainfall by installing guttering that fed any rainfall excess into tanks. I have a cousin in town who uses only tank water caught off his own roof for household use. During water restrictions he did not require any water from municipal resources. He is an ex- farmer's son. The water which is used for washing of dishes, floors people etc is carefully conserved and reused by leading it through pipes to his lawn and garden. My mother managed to grow enough vegetables and fruit by doing this to actually sell some of the excess organic fruit to people in towns. We have 68% of young people sitting idle and desperate for employment. Some of them have tertiary education. There are areas which receive excess water which causes great damage. Why can these young people not be used to develop runoff canals? TBCont.

  • gailcarolynhayes - 2012-05-17 13:50

    Part 2. Every year in the Western cape we have thousands if not millions of people living in what are effectively natural basins whose homes are inundated together with their few precious belongings. Here is an ideal place to develop such a system where all water which is currently not only causing damage but also deprivation and disease could be salvaged and actually provide a source of potable water for domestic use in those areas instead of causing large scale misery for short periods and then for the rest of the year these same people do not have access to potable water for household use. With a bit of planning nature could with the aid of engineers and all these unemployed youths be setting an example in dealing with water issues. When our large rivers and dams do come down in flood we could reduce the loss of water and the damage by diverting this water through canals to areas where the water can provide not only household drinking water but also a means of irrigating and establishing vegetable and flower and so forth. Use the levies we are fighting over to create sustainable water supply which would lead to more employment in areas such as water purification and utilities where other more skilled youth could be employed. Line the canals, enclose them to prevent loss of life through drowning. AM I JUST CRAZY? How do people in places like Dubai etc do this? These youth would then leave a legacy to be proud of by being creative, providing life through water to the future.

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