Summit tackles SA's water issues

Durban - The Water and Energy Summit currently underway in KwaZulu-Natal is bringing into sharp focus the country's water problems and possible solutions are being tabled on how to best deal with the situation.

2010 has not been a good year for water in South Africa, with drought posing a serious challenge in provinces, including the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. South Africa is already on the list of the 30 driest countries in the world. When poverty is added to the mix, the consequences become dire.

Acting Director General for the national Department of Water Affairs, Trevor Balzer, said water has to be at the centre of all development plans, especially South Africa's socio-economic goals.

He said government's current budget allocated to the Water Department is not sufficient to address the water provision backlog.

Balzer stressed the importance of municipalities effectively managing their water and energy systems, and appealed to ratepayers and civil organisations to not withhold fees from municipalities, even if they are aggrieved with service delivery.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize has challenged his province to proactively deal with the challenges of water shortages. He will request all municipalities to submit to his office their plans on water and energy resource management.

Additionally, he wants input from local, provincial and national government on these plans, with the aim of moving towards a single plan for water management.

Mkhize said one common plan will improve the use of available resources in different sectors and in turn speed up service delivery.

The premier also told delegates that different avenues for finance must be examined. In KwaZulu-Natal, some water resource management projects receive funding from UN bodies and organisations in Europe.

The two-day summit has received massive support from the KwaZulu-Natal government, with at least six MECs attending the opening session.

Nomusa Dube, MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, said although the summit has a bias towards KZN, resolutions that emerge from Durban can be used nationally because the whole of South Africa is dealing with the same issues around water and energy.

Dube said the summit will present stakeholders with an integral demand estimate for water in KZN and the current supply.

There will also be an opportunity for the private sector to look into funding or investment opportunities in water and energy projects.

By Kemantha Govender - BuaNews