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Document Name: Putting WS into Perspective

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This document has been opened: 1 290 times to date.
Date Of Release: 20 Nov 2013
Date Of Expected Review:
Date Last Updated: 20 Nov 2013
Document Type: Reports
Document Level: National
Department: Water & Sanitation
Contact Name: Allestair Wensley
Phone Number: 012 336 8767
Fax Number: 012 336 6609
Directorate: Water Macro Planning
Contact Name: Allestair Wensley
Phone Number: 012 336 8767
Fax Number: 012 336 6609
Topics covered:
Water Management
Document Precis:

Putting Water Services into Perspective

Section Summary

  Section Number Section Heading Section Description
     1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 Purpose
To provide a clear and concise understanding of the water services business in South Africa.
1.2 Approach
To facilitate more effective decision making among key sector role players by analysing the
customer, the operating environment and those factors that will impact on sustainable water
services provision, against the backdrop of water resource availability.
1.3 Background
South Africa is a water scarce country and it is essential that all available water is used
effectively, efficiently and sustainably in order to reduce poverty, improve human health and
promote economic development. To achieve this, both available surface water and ground
water resources must be managed to ensure a balance between demand and supply, in order
to meet the country’s present and future water needs.
The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) is the leader and regulator of both the water resource
and services sectors, with mandated responsibility to ensure that all people have access to
sustainable water resources and a safe and secure water supply. Executive responsibility for
the actual provision of water services (water and sanitation), has been delegated to those
municipalities, (local, district or metropolitan), that have been designated as Water Services
Authorities (WSAs).
     2 SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROFILE In South Africa a national census is undertaken only every 10 years due to cost constraints. In the years between censuses, Stats SA, (by means of sampling), carries out General Household Surveys (GHS) and municipal financial and non-financial surveys. Based on these estimates the national and provincial population figures are adjusted and mid-year population estimates derived. (A proposed Continuous Population Survey, (CPS), intended to replace the GHS, was to sample in a 3 year cycle at Provincial, District Municipality and Local Municipality levels rotationally, has been deferred at present due to cost constraints).
     3 THE WATER BUSINESS The water business is an ongoing, neverending 24/7, 365 days a year business that must be managed from source to tap and back to source; (see diagram below). For the business to function effectively, it requires proper leadership, commitment, staff and resources.
     4 WATER RESOURCES 4.1 Responsibility
In accordance with the National Water Act, the DWA is the custodian of South Africa’s water
resources and has the mandated responsibility to ensure both surface and groundwater
resources are managed to ensure a balance between water supply and demand into the future.
4.2 Water Resource Availability
South Africa is the 30
driest country in the world, with a reliable yield of about 15 billion
/annum, (National Water Resource Strategy 2004), comprising about 68% surface water,
13% groundwater, 13% return flows and 6% from other sources.
4.3 Water Use
Current water use is estimated to be between 15 and 16 billion m
/annum. This is roughly
split between agriculture (62%), municipal (27%), mining (3%), industry (3%), energy (2%)
and afforestation (3%).
4.4 Water Resource Security
Comprehensive water resource assessments, (or reconciliation studies), in 13 key demand/
economic areas, have been completed along with other water resource assessments, (the so-
called All Towns Studies), in 905 towns. From these assessments it was found that 28% of the
towns have inadequate water resources and are in need of urgent attention. Water resource
actions were identified and water conservation and demand management (WCDM) was
identified as a key requirement, yet 50% of towns do not currently implement WCDM.
Climate change is predicted to impact negatively on the country’s water resource adequacy,
both in terms of availability and storage requirements.
Currently South Africa’s gross average per capita water consumption is very high, being 235
litres per day, against a world norm of only 173 litres per person per day.
Recent water loss and non-revenue water assessments found that South African water losses
are about 32%, whilst non-revenue water (NRW) is close on 36% and increasing. The Rand
value of this NRW is estimated to be about R11 billion per annum. Considering that NRW is
purely water lost or not billed, but does not include water billed but not paid for, then actual
lost revenue will be even higher.
     5 WATER SERVICES 5.1 Service Levels
There are 3 levels of water supply, i.e. basic, higher and interim.
a) A basic or RDP level of supply is defined as 25 litres per person per day (or at least 6000
litres per household per month), supplied at:
• A minimum flow rate of 10 litres per minute;
• A standpipe within 200 metres of a household;
• Interruptions of less than 48 hours at any one time, and a cumulative interruption of
less than 15 days per year; and
• At a potable standard (SANS 241).
b) A higher level of supply is supply exceeding the basic amount; however government’s
aim is to eventually provide all households with 50 to 60 litres per person per day via an
individual connection.
c) An interim level of supply is defined as:
• 10 litres per person per day, within 500 metres of a household and at a potable
standard (SANS 241); and
• No consumer is without water for more than 7 full days in any year and no more than
3 consecutive days.
5.2. Targets
5.2.1 Local
In 1994 South Africa set a target of eradicating the historic water services backlogs by 2008.
This was subsequently extended to 2014.
5.2.2 International
The country has also subscribed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), namely
to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by
5.3 Progress
Although significant progress has been made, both the national water and sanitation 2014
targets will not be met. The international MDG targets for water and sanitation were however
met in 2005 and 2008 respectively.
     6 WATER SERVICES PROGRAMMES AND INITIATIVES 6.1 Regulation As regulator of the water services sector, the DWA has a regulatory programme through which it monitors the performance of WSAs against a set of key performance indicators, and where necessary takes action. To do this the DWA utilises a Regulatory Performance Measurement System (RPMS), which assesses 4 performance areas, namely technical efficiency, customer satisfaction, financial viability and institutional effectiveness. The findings are published in a yearly RPMS report. The 2012 assessment rated 5 WSAs from a regulatory perspective as excellent, 33 as good, 76 as fair and 38 as poor. Although the DWA currently performs the regulatory function, there is some debate as to whether this function should become independent of the Department. 6.1.1 Technical efficiency Two technical areas are comprehensively regulated, namely drinking water and wastewater, whilst a third, water conservation and demand management is to commence shortly.
     7 CHALLENGES South Africa must overcome a number of challenges if it is to ensure a sustainable supply of
water into the future. The main challenges are:
• No surplus water is available and what there is, is unevenly distributed. 28% of towns
already have inadequate water, and climate change will worsen this. Water consumption
is too high and there is poor water use efficiency and little WCDM implementation.
• Due to scarcity of water, pollutants will need to be treated to ever higher standards
before discharge; however wastewater treatment works (WWTW) are generally in
a poor condition and many are over their capacity. Acid mine drainage adds to the
pollution problem.
• The remaining backlogs are generally in remote, difficult to service areas, with high
associated costs.
• Many municipalities are just not able to run a successful water services business. Their
water tariffs are often not cost reflective and the service run at a loss.
• The current funding levels are inadequate to meet the sector’s financial requirements.
Under-expenditure, especially of grants, worsens the situation.
• Municipalities lack skills and capacity, especially technical. High staff turnover is
problematic. A 2011 study found that although 72% of posts were filled, only 51% were
budgeted for and funded.
• An infrastructure focused approach, where lifecycle costing is not done during
planning and design of schemes, leads to high O&M costs. This contributes to the lack
of infrastructure asset management and collapse of schemes, the so-called functionality
problem, which effectively increases the service backlog.
• Inappropriate, unsustainable higher levels of service are often provided for short term
political gain. This leads to the leakage of basic services funding to higher levels of
• Growth in number of households and influx of illegal immigrants to informal
settlements adds to the service backlog.
• The growing number of informal settlements, especially in the North West Province, is
• Migration to urban areas, and specifically Gauteng, will shift service provision needs.
• Delegated responsibilities for water services to a number of bodies such as the DWA,
DCOG, DHS and WSAs has led to a fragmented approach to service delivery.
• Effective monitoring of backlogs and delivery is problematic. The MIG Management
Information System (run by DCOG), is not able to provide the required information.
Estimates have thus to be based on Stats SA information and grant allocations.
• Poor municipal planning due to a lack of credible and reliable information.
     8 STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS What can the DWA expect going forward and how should it respond?
• Continued high unemployment with a low economic growth rate indicate an increased
potential for social unrest, which could affect service delivery and increase the incidence
of “hot spot” protests. The economy is predicted to enter a recessionary period next
year, which will exacerbate the situation. Every effort must be made to create jobs in the
sector. There is potential for this in the maintenance of schemes.
• Although the population growth rate is slowing down it appears unlikely to fall below
1% per annum. The higher household growth rate will however mean that delivery
needs grow faster, perhaps 2% per annum. The influx of illegal immigrants is likely
to continue whilst there are poor living conditions in neighbouring countries. The
migration to urban areas is predicted to continue until at least 2030. Service provision
needs will shift to urban areas, where it is usually easier and more cost effective to
provide services.Whilst every effort must be made to limit dual homes and illegal entry
into South Africa, one can expect service requirements to grow at about 2% per annum.
However for planning purposes, area specific growth rates will have to be used, as they will
vary tremendously between provinces and urban or rural areas.
• Unless the provision of housing is accelerated, informal settlements, with their own set
of challenges, will continue to grow.The housing programme must be accelerated.
• Water will become scarcer, and all the more so with climate change. The latter will
increase storage requirements by an estimated 10%, yet there are increasingly less
suitable dam sites and limited opportunities for further water transfer schemes.The
mindset must be changed from one of supply management to one of demand management.
WCDM activities must be implemented as a priority.
• The current lack of appreciation of the value of water is partially due to low tariffs which
are not cost reflective. This, together with poor O&M and lack of metering, contributes
to wastage, high per capita consumption, high non-revenue water and financial loss. If
not addressed this will continue to threaten municipal viability. The public needs to be
educated as to the value of water. Tariffs must be increased to reflect this and must be cost
reflective. Municipalities must meter water and keep a water balance.
• Lifecycle costing at planning and design phases minimises scheme lifetime costs. Should
an infrastructure focused approach continue, this will lead to higher than necessary
O&M costs, scheme non-functionality and an increase in the service backlog. WSAs,
and especially councillors, need to adopt a longer term outlook and make lifecycle design
a contractual requirement. Infrastructure asset management systems must be in place and
• The use of appropriate technology is sometimes ignored. The use of appropriate
technology can if correctly applied increase job opportunities and minimise costs.
South Africa is faced with many challenges, but also many strengths and opportunities.
Decisions to be taken and strategies adopted need to take cognisance of where we have come
from, experienced gained and what we are likely to face in the future. This will ensure that
“the high” and not “the low road” is taken.

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