Where we work

South Africa

PDF icon PDF Download (927.35 KB)
1,246,000 indirect beneficiaries, 70% women
221,000 direct beneficiaries, 30% women
EUR 2,404,000 total financial contribution leveraged from the private sector, government and civil society organisations

Despite being regarded the economic powerhouse of Africa, South Africa faces significant obstacles, including a low growth rate (1%) and high unemployment (26%) – particularly amongst the youth of the country. Collective efforts from all sectors are required to create job opportunities and to tackle the social, environmental and economic challenges the country faces. Much of South Africa is severely water stressed, with current projections forecasting a supply demand gap of 17% by 2030 and depletion of the country’s economically viable land-based water resources by 2050. The drivers for this are many, including the semi-arid environment, a heavy reliance on water sources outside the country’s borders, and challenges in implementing the integrated water resource management legislative framework. In addition, escalated growth, urbanisation, unsustainable water use, degradation of wetlands, municipal water losses, and a decrease in rainfall due to climate change are rapidly pushing the country’s water supply capacity into a state of crisis.

Achieving water security in South Africa will therefore require a new ‘normal’ and a significant paradigm shift, placing greater responsibility on all water users and stimulating collective action to resolve water challenges.

As a convenor of innovative partnerships between diverse water users, IWaSP is well positioned to operate in this space. Since the programme’s inception in 2014, IWaSP South Africa has formed seven multi-stakeholder partnerships to tackle the complex water challenges the country faces now. Each partnership focuses on different elements of water security, but all are designed to significantly improve the lives of the people in the project areas through innovative and replicable approaches.

Approach and Objectives

Over the past 4 years, IWaSP supported seven partnerships in South Africa on either catchment, municipal or national level. Each of these partnerships focuses on different elements of water security, but all are designed to significantly improve the lives of the people in the project areas through innovative, replicable approaches.

IWaSP South Africa works across a broad range of sectors from agriculture to retail, insurance providers, breweries, mining, and agricultural processing. We also support the cooperation between industries and key local and national government departments to ensure water security, enhanced water governance, and improved access for all water users.

The strategy of the International Water Stewardship Programme (IWaSP) in South Africa is to:

  • Implement partnerships that will improve knowledge on private-sector collaboration and deliver innovative cooperation that could be applied at pan-African level
  • Improve water security for 230,000 South Africans by 2018
  • Help to shape a conducive policy environment for water stewardship in South Africa, the SADC region and beyond
  • Implement scalable, collaborative projects that reduce water risks in the relevant catchments, and are replicable in other catchments





Partnership Name

Sector/Thematic Area


Water Stewardship in the hops-growing areas of George and Oudtshoorn

Food and beverages/Agricultural supply chain

2014 - 2018

Water Stewardship in the Upper Breede Catchment

Retail/Agricultural supply chain

2015 – 2018

Securing Port Elizabeth’s water through landscape restoration and water stewardship

Insurance/Landscape restoration and water loss reduction

2015 - 2018

Water loss reduction in Metsimaholo Local Municipality (LM)

Oil and petroleum/Municipal water loss reduction

2016 - 2018

Improving water security for Madibeng Local Municipality

Mining/Municipal infrastructure improvement

2016 - 2018

Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN)

Multi-sector cooperation

2014 - 2018

The uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership (UWaSP)

Multi-sector cooperation

2016 – 2018

 IWaSP entered into a partnership, ‘Water Stewardship in the hops-growing areas of George and Oudtshoorn’, with South African Breweries (SAB), WWF and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to improve the water balance around the George and Oudtshoorn areas in the Southern Cape. SAB sources its hops – a water-intensive crop – from this water-stressed area. Clearing 536 ha of invasive trees, monitoring groundwater use and achieving water irrigation efficiency on farms are among the project’s main achievements.

 ‘Water Stewardship in the Upper Breede Catchment’ is a partnership between Marks & Spencer, IWaSP, WWF, the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), the Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA) and Woolworths and aims to reduce water risks in one of the most important deciduous fruit-growing regions in the country. The partnership tested the AWS Standard on farm-level and empowered local residents to improve the quality of run-off water from informal housing areas. In cooperation with AWS, the partnership has developed a tool to reduce agricultural water risks. As South Africa’s first functional catchment management agency (CMA), BGCMA serves as an example for emerging CMAs.

 The partnership ‘Securing Port Elizabeth’s water through landscape restoration and water stewardship’ aims to improve water security for this important industrial and agricultural hub through large-scale restoration of degraded land in the three catchments that provide 70% of the city’s water. It also seeks to improve the capacity of local municipalities to address drought risk challenges and climate change adaptation. Santam (insurer), Living Lands (NGO), Grounded (NGO), the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), the Mzimvubu- Tsitsikamma CMA and IWaSP are project partners.

‘Water loss reduction in Metsimaholo Local Municipality (LM)’ is a partnership between Sasol, Metsimaholo LM, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and IWaSP which focuses on reducing water losses in this municipality, situated in the International Vaal/Orange-Senqu catchment. Actions include a baseline assessment to determine current losses, community outreach measures and leakage repair on bulk and household infrastructure. This project contributes to the creation of a model approach for water loss reduction, which can serve as reference to other municipalities.

The partnership, ‘Improving water security for Madibeng Local Municipality’ addresses issues of ageing infrastructure which causes leakages and interrupted water supply to residents and businesses. Through technical interventions, capacity development and awareness raising, the objective of the partnership is to directly improve water security for approximately 50,000 people. Project partners are Lonmin mine, Madibeng Local Municipality and IWaSP. The interventions are aimed at supporting the municipality’s water and sanitation department so that infrastructure management can be further improved.

The Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) is a platform for companies, government and civil society to collectively find solutions to the country’s most pressing water challenges. IWaSP has supported SWPN since 2014 in various working groups and initiatives, such as ‘No Drop’, incentivising the reduction of water leaks in municipalities; the Water Administration System which saves 55M m3 of irrigation water per year, and a sustainable mining coordinating body. Partners include SABMiller, DWS, DEA, 2030 Water Resources Group, ABSA bank, Anglo American, South32, Coca-Cola, Eskom, Exxaro, Nestlé, Sasol, Rand Water, Santam, Unilever, WWF and IWaSP.

The UWaSP Partnership, based in the Richards Bay industrial and agricultural hub, mobilises commitments and resources from 11 partners comprising numerous businesses based in the area, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), the Catchment Management Agency of Pongolo-uMzimkulu, the National Business Initiative, WWF and SWPN. Partners are committed to improve the sustainability of the river catchment, addressing downstream water use efficiency opportunities, agricultural water stewardship practices, alien invasive plant clearing and wetlands rehabilitation, the development of local community environmental champions for pollution control and enhanced management of the region’s coastal lakes and surface water dam. Project activities include working with the local municipality to reduce non-revenue water, scoping entrepreneurial opportunities around water conservation and recycling, the implementation of water efficiency in the sugar cane, nut and fruit industry, clearing of invasive plants and capacity building for Goedertrouw Dam’s operators.

Achievements to Date
  • Between 2014 and 2018, IWaSP’s seven partnerships benefitted over 1,246,000 people indirectly, of which 70% were women, and 221,000 directly, of which 30% were women.
  • IWaSP South Africa has established 7 partnerships throughout the country, and one on national level, engaging 14 partners from the private sector, 6 from the public sector, and 3 from the civil society.
  • These partnerships have leveraged  €2 404 000 of financial contributions from the private sector, government, and civil society organisations


Challenges and Outlook

2018 is a key year for IWaSP, as from 2019 IWaSP will transition into NatuReS with a broader focus on natural resources stewardship. This also means that IWaSP South Africa will exit most of its partnerships. Throughout, IWaSP South Africa has continually worked to ensure the sustainability of its partnerships, ensuring their continuation beyond IWaSP.

As part of its sustainability and exit strategy, IWaSP South Africa is collecting impacts and lessons learned, ensuring a transfer of knowledge and best practices to both partners as well as the international water stewardship community. 

Key lessons identified so far:

1. Local level facilitators play an important role in coordinating collective action around water challenges.

2. It is important that partnerships are firmly anchored in areas with strong local leadership.

3. The sustainability of project partnerships needs to be planned upfront and accounted for in the design of the implementation and funding cycle of the partnership.

4. There is need for a neutral third party such as IWaSP to play a convening role, especially given its strong relationships with actors from the public and private sector.

5. It is important to establish clear roles and responsibilities, reflect partners’ institutional capacities, and develop holistic solutions, while maintaining flexibility and fostering momentum over the long term.

Transitioning into NatuReS, IWaSP is also examining new potential partnerships with a renewed ambition of safeguarding and creating jobs by joint action to protect shared natural resources.   


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 nine countries, the seven-year programme (2013-2019) 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).


Further Information on South Africa’s Water Resources

South Africa is a semi-arid country and relies heavily on water sources that lie outside its borders. Its growing economy is depending on water-intensive sectors like agriculture and mining; millions of people still don’t have access to good-quality drinking water; a lack of skills and capacity in the government has led to widespread infrastructure failure; pollution from informal settlements, industries and acid mine drainage further threaten available water resources. Furthermore, South Africa is currently suffering from the worst drought in 30 years. Food security is threatened in the entire Southern African region, and many towns’ water supplies have run completely dry, leaving thousands of vulnerable people dependent on water donations from elsewhere.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has to balance the water needs of the fast-growing population (whose right to water is enshrined in the constitution), with that of food production and economic development. Based on studies by the 2030 Water Resources Group, it is projected that South Africa will have a 17% gap between water demand and supply as early as 2030. With South Africa’s economic position in Africa, and in particular southern Africa, the consequences of not finding solutions to the country’s water challenges will affect the entire region.

The government has repeatedly acknowledged that it needs private sector support and civil society buy-in to find workable solutions for the country’s water challenges. As a significant water user, the South African private sector depends heavily on a viable water management system for the sustainability of its operations in the country, and is showing increasing interest in working with the government to find solutions. The complexity of creating mutually beneficial partnerships is, however, most often the stumbling block preventing their establishment. This is where, the International Water Stewardship Programme (IWaSP) has an instrumental role to play.

News Coverage on the Drought in Southern Africa
Contact Information

Dr. Faith Lawrence
Hatfield Gardens Office Park Block C,
333 Grosvenor Street, Hatfield, Pretoria 0028