The efforts of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) to reconfigure South Africa’s water boards, and ensure the provision of water and sanitation services for all, is “moving with speed”, assures Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu.
Addressing a virtual Water and Sanitation Portfolio Committee meeting on Tuesday, he said the reconfiguration addresses transformation challenges, increases water access to unserviced areas, enhances market capitalisation for infrastructure projects and reduces skewed supply of water.
“The reconfiguration of water boards is meant to give adequate support to the under-capacitated Water Services Authorities (WSAs) to meet the ever-increasing demand for services by communities and ensure adequate capacity with quality and skilled engineers,” he says.
This process will ensure that water boards provide water services to areas where there is no provision.
“However, this process is not an imposition, but due process is undertaken to bring on board all relevant stakeholders including WSAs in various provinces where these services are being extended to, to ensure that there is sustainable water supply in all parts of our country,” he comments.
“The reality is that the expenditure to implement projects is too high and the demand for services is also too high, yet the delivery by government institutions is too low and we need to fix this as a matter of urgency.”
The reconfiguration of all water boards is an implementation of the resolutions of the National Water and Sanitation Summit held early last year wherein stakeholders converged to develop solutions to improve the sector.
As a result, he says that the DWS consulted all relevant stakeholders in KwaZulu-Natal to create a single water entity by incorporating Mhlathuze Water and its boundary into Umgeni Water, a process that is expected to be finalised by the end of February, with a new board appointed in April 2023.
Rand Water’s scope will be extended to cover the entire Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces, with consultations with the affected stakeholders ongoing and a gazette notice for public comments published on January 27.
Further, Lepelle Northern Water Board’s boundary is also being extended to service the entire Limpopo province.
Technical discussion between Lepelle and Magalies Water to take over areas that are currently being served by the latter are underway, while Magalies Water’s scope is expanded to service the entire North West province, taking over from Sedibeng Water which was disestablished last year, Mchunu explains.
Magalies’ functions and assets in Gauteng and Limpopo will be transferred to Rand Water and Lepelle Water respectively.
In addition, as part of the reconfiguration, Bloem Water will service the whole Free State and the Northern Cape, with the utility already having taken over the staff, assets and liabilities from the disestablished Sedibeng Water in August 2022.
A new name has been proposed for this entity to accommodate Northern Cape customers.
“The incorporation of Sedibeng Water into Bloem and Magalies Water Boards has gone smoothly, and transfer agreements have been signed and operational funds transferred to Bloem Water and Magalies Water respectively,” he adds.
In the Eastern Cape, the scope of Amatola Water has been extended to cover the entire province and all due processes are unfolding while the process to select new board members is underway.
Mchunu reiterates that the process of reconfiguration will not result in job losses, and it is only meant to strengthen capacity, improve institutional efficiencies and enable water boards to better support WSAs.