South Africa: Support to the Strategic Water Partners Network

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SABMiller, 2030WRG, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Sasol, Eskom, Anglo American, South 32


South Africa currently faces its worst drought in decades. This exacerbates an already water-stressed future for the country: South Africa has one of the lowest water run-off rates in the world and is likely to become more water scarce due to the impacts of climate change. Based on studies by the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG), it is projected that South Africa will have a 17% gap between water demand and supply by 2030.

The local economy is driven mainly by mining, manufacturing and agriculture, which are highly dependent on water for their daily operations. A steady supply of water in the long-term is imperative for the country’s economic growth, which in turn has a direct impact on neighbouring countries that are heavily dependent on South Africa for stability and food supply. As seen in the current drought situation, the impact of water crises is felt most severely by vulnerable communities.

The government has called for private-sector support in finding solutions for these challenges. As significant water users and also emitters of wastewater, the private sector has a direct interest in effective water resources management and efficient water infrastructure planning and development.


Approach and Objectives

The Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) was established in 2011 as a coordination platform between the South African private sector, government and civil society organisations to jointly find solutions for the country’s most threatening water issues. It is a multi-stakeholder platform, co-chaired by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and South African Breweries (SAB) on behalf of business. The SWPN aims to galvanise collective action across sectors and industries to bridge the projected water supply-demand gap. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Business Foundation hosts the SWPN.

The SWPN’s activities are structured into six working groups:

  • Water-efficiency and water demand management
  • Agricultural supply chains
  • Effluent and mine-water management
  • Sanitation
  • Skills development
  • Water stewardship

The International Water Stewardship Programme (IWaSP) has funded SWPN’s activities between 2014 and 2015 to support the network with commissioning baseline studies, developing guidelines and facilitating stakeholder interaction in the above-mentioned focal areas. IWaSP has also been an active contributor to all the working groups.

SWPN partnership activities focused on the following projects in 2015:

1) Municipal water-loss reduction
In close cooperation with the DWS, the SWPN developed “No Drop” criteria to assess municipalities’ efforts to reduce water losses and to create incentives for them to address this. This has been adopted by the government to complement the existing Blue Drop (water quality) and Green Drop (wastewater treatment) programmes. Knowing which municipalities are struggling with water losses will create opportunities for public-private partnerships.

2) Upgrading of the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme
The Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme is the largest irrigation scheme in the country. It provides water to approximately 1000 commercial and smallholder farmers. The scheme, however, is almost 80 years old and needs urgent upgrades to reduce the nearly 30% water losses in the system. The SWPN commissioned studies to investigate the required interventions and convened stakeholder meetings to develop a funding and investment plan. Through these interventions, funding was received from two government departments for preparatory work, which forms the basis for further investment into upgrades.

3) Coordinating mine water management in the Olifants River Catchment
South Africa’s coal fields are situated within the Olifants River Catchment. Studies have estimated that over 50 million m3 of water could be saved in the catchment through improved mine water management, treatment and reuse. The SWPN has embarked on a process to establish a mine water coordination body to lead the process of collaborative planning to realise reuse and treatment potential, which could lead to improved water quality in the catchment and potentially improved water supply for local and regional demands. The business case for the establishment of this body has now been endorsed by DWS and as a next step the coordination body will be linked to the emerging CMA.


Challenges and Outlook

IWaSP’s support to the SWPN will continue and will focus particularly on project implementation and organisational governance in selected focal areas. In addition, IWaSP will work with the SWPN on providing input to the development of a national water stewardship policy. The SWPN is being studied by various organisations to serve as a model for the establishment of similar bodies in other African countries.

Country Set-up

In South Africa, IWaSP is anchored in the Centre for Cooperation with the Private Sector (CCPS) of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, an umbrella unit of different programmes which aims to promote cooperation with the private sector. It is based at the GIZ office in Pretoria.

IWaSP is an international water security programme which combines global best practices in water stewardship with local know-how. Currently active in seven countries, the six-year programme (2013-2018) facilitates partnerships between the public sector, the private sector and civil society to address shared water risks, while improving stakeholders’ use and management of water and building their capacity to develop their own solutions. GIZ manages IWaSP on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the UK Department for International Development (DfID).