On 27 and 28 October, more than 170 people from government, civil society organisations and over 40 different companies flocked to Sandton to participate in the first ever regional water stewardship conference to be held in South Africa. GIZ’s International Water Stewardship Programme (IWaSP), the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) and the National Business Initiative (NBI) organised the conference together with the goal of promoting the concept of water stewardship.
This event came at a time that South Africa is facing a range of serious water-related challenges. South Africa loses 829 million m³ of water annually due to failing infrastructure and inefficient water management practices; and is facing water restrictions in six provinces affected by the prevailing drought conditions. Agriculture, industry, energy generation and households are all competing for access to this scarce resource. It is by now widely acknowledged that water is posing a real threat to economic growth in the country.
“The response to this conference was overwhelming,” said Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Water and Sanitation, at the event. “It reflects the acknowledgement by all sectors that water has become one of the biggest risks facing governments and businesses today; a risk that cannot be tackled by one sector alone.” Minister Mokonyane delivered the key note address, while German Ambassador to South Africa, Walter Lindner, also addressed participants.
Over the two days, more than 30 people from various organisations shared their knowledge and practical experience in water stewardship with the conference delegates through short presentations or panel discussions. Topics included the benefits and challenges of water stewardship, what role different sectors can play, what is required on a policy level to create a conducive environment for stewardship, as well as how to practically implement water stewardship activities. IWaSP brought some of its project partners from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and the Caribbean to the conference to also share their experiences with the South African delegates.
IWaSP is currently implementing a diverse range of water stewardship projects in South Africa and the above-mentioned countries on behalf of the UK and German Governments. The programme supports companies to become water stewards; companies are encouraged to work together with other role players, such as community organisations and the relevant government authorities, in the catchments in which they operate to together address shared water risks, such as, for example scarcity, water wastage or wastewater treatment challenges. IWaSP facilitates the establishment of such partnerships, manages these partnerships and provides technical input to the measures needed to address the specific water risks.