The delay in the review of South Africa’s National Water Resources Strategy had emerged as a key concern for the Department of Water Affairs (DWA), director-general Maxwell Sirenya said at a Water Institute of Southern Africa conference in Cape Town on Monday. But a draft of review, which was about three years behind schedule, should be released for public comment by September.
“The importance of the strategy, especially the allocation and the equity components ... caused a delay,” Sirenya said, adding that he hoped it would finally be approved year-end.
In the meantime, a decision had been made to move ahead with establishing nine catchment management agencies (CMAs) to manage the catchment areas already unveiled by Department of Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.
“This has been received with excitement in the water sector as evidence of the Minister’s commitment to driving full implementation of the National Water Act and ensuring that the nation’s water resources are used sustainably. The establishment of CMAs will enable the promotion of equity through more effective water resources management and greater responsiveness to the needs of the poor and marginalised communities arising from the closer links with stakeholder groups in the water management areas,” said Sirenya.
The two existing CMA’s, the Nkomati and Breede Overberg, would be aligned with the new system.
The department was also making progress in dealing with the water use licence application backlog, which grew substantially with the implementation of the National Water Act, which required new categories of activities to apply for licences. At the time, “the capacity in the Department of Water Affairs was not ready for it . . . and a significant backlog resulted,” Sirenya said.
However, the 2010 project initiated to reduce the build-up had been successful and he expected that “within the next three months” it would be eradicated.
In future, new methods would also be looked at in order to streamline the application process. “A restructuring exercise is currently taking place . . . and one of the main objectives is to create the required capacity to consider water use licences.”
Regional offices and the CMAs will be capacitated to consider applications, with only licenses of national or international importance to be considered from Pretoria.
Also speaking at the event, Molewa said that her department was also looking at potentially integrating applications for water use licences with other applications, such as those for environmental–impact assessment authorisations and even mining licence applications. Discussions were under way with the Department of Mineral Resources on the matter.