Water Systems Research Group, University of the Witwatersrand. Johannesburg, South Africa. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since 1994 the development and management of conventional water resources (i.e. surface and groundwater) have undergone in South Africa a significant transition process which emanated from the fundamental changes in water legislation. The new water laws are based on the principles of universal franchise and equity in access to water services provision (i.e. water supply and sanitation) and providing also for the reserve allocation representing the basic human water needs and ecological requirements.
The signals being received from implementation process of new water legislation, highlighted a seriousness of water scarcity in South Africa. The limitation in availability of conventional water resources are related to the region’s natural aridity and relatively poor geohydrological conditions. Although numerous arbitrary choices were already made in an approach to water resources management in recent years (e.g. water use licensing, free water up to 6 m3 per month per household, a legislation of 19 Water Management Areas and Catchment Management Agencies, etc.) the most critical choice will have to be made by the South African public in approving the National Water Resources Strategy (NWRS) proposed by the country’s government. The public consultation meetings are being facilitated by the private sector agency on behalf of the government in all nineteen Water Management Areas to provide public with appropriate forums and information systems. The objective is to enable the public in educated choices how to manage the remaining water resources and to comment toward the NWRS. The key principles of the NWRS are sustainability, equity and efficiency. The complementary strategies are capacity building, public participation, education and awareness, and research in water resources.
The extent and present capacity of the primary water services infrastructure can cope with the demands imposed upon it. The sluggish performance of national economy (average growth rate of 2,5% at about 40% of potential labor force unemployed) kept seemingly the demand for water from conventional sources at low levels in recent years. These and the whole host of other symptoms should be the warning signs for future choices in management of remaining conventional water resources in South Africa, if the ambitions and aspirations of the region’s population are to be satisfied on sustainable basis. Both, public and private sectors have equally critical roles to play in choices to be made and speedily implemented to safeguard the remaining resources and research in alternative new resources expensive to develop at present.