Private sector called to invest in water sector

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has called on the private sector to partner with government and invest in the water sector to help address challenges experienced in the water and sanitation space.

Minister Mokonyane made the call during the Water Infrastructure Investment Summit (WIIS) held on Tuesday at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

The department, in partnership with the Water Research Commission (WRC), convened the summit to facilitate a conversation and programme of action that aims to shift the water and sanitation sector investment landscape to a space that is open and enabling for investment and inclusive growth opportunities.

In her address, Minister Mokonyane said radical socio-economic transformation entails, among others, the introduction of new models and mechanism of working relationships that will enhance service delivery.

“This means that we have to look at new ways for an integrated water resource management. Efforts to manage, protect and preserve water as a critical resource in a sustainable manner speaks to the collective responsibility of all the stakeholders in the water sector.

“Water security and management are vital components of social and economic development in South Africa. Putting in place appropriate internal measures will enable a significant benefit in realising external opportunities to save water and use it more efficiently,” Minister Mokonyane said.

She said it is imperative the country thinks innovatively about new ways of making water available outside the traditional engineering solutions of supply-side infrastructure development.

Minister Mokonyane emphasised the importance of applying proper economic impact analysis to appreciate how increasing investments in the nation’s water infrastructure can have a positive impact on both economic growth and employment.

“Moreover, we will have to review the projected capital needs of water, wastewater and storm-water utilities, and be able to estimate the associated economic benefits that would be realised if we were to make those investments.

“These benefits include the economic opportunities created by water infrastructure projects, the long-term productivity savings to the customers of water utilities, as well as the avoided costs of frequent disruptions in water and wastewater services to business,” the Minister said.

No change in policy

The Minister used the opportunity to assure stakeholders that there is no change in policy, but the department aims to empower the current water and sanitation policy environment, with a new partnership between the public sector, private sector and civil society to build a strong, powerful and effective “Team Water SA”.

She said government is seeking a new partnership with the business and investment sector to ensure water security in South Africa in a manner that ensures access to safe water and sanitation universally and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We have to refurbish the current networks, simultaneously modernising them with such interventions as real-time monitoring with distribution sensor networks converting the water and sanitation networks into intelligent systems. We need to deal with our infrastructure backlog innovatively, taking advantage of the new solutions and innovations coming out of research and development,” the Minister said.

Everybody needs to come on board

Rand Water CEO Percy Sechemane says that investing in water requires everybody to come on board.

“You can’t look at the food value chain without saying that whatever we are doing, water is going to play a big part in it. The bulk infrastructure is sitting in the middle, but that is where you have to make sure that you upstream,” Sechemane said.

Sechemane said a lot of investment has been made in water, with returns.

Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority chairperson Zodwa Manase said there’s an opportunity to make money through water. “You cannot get involved in a mega project of water without making partnerships,” Manase said.

South African Local Government Association President Parks Tau said there a lot of opportunities in investing in water.

“There’s an opportunity to… enter into partnerships that would address issues of leakages in water infrastructure, expanding our dam storage facilities and also investing in pressure management solutions for municipalities,” Tau said.

– SAnews.gov.za