A legacy of bad wa­ter man­age­ment

Finweek English Edition - - Contents - By Lloyd Gedye

The Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project, which is sup­posed to help se­cure South Africa's cur­rent and Fu­ture wa­ter sup­ply, has been bled dry by cor­rup­tion and waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture putting the project years be­hind sched­ule and the coun­try at risk of wa­ter short­ages.

wa­ter de­mand in South Africa is ex­pected to ex­ceed sup­ply by 17% in 2030 as a lack of plan­ning and in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture, and the im­pact of global warm­ing threaten to leave more cities with­out suf­fi­cient sup­ply. While Cape Town’s wa­ter cri­sis has been well­doc­u­mented, Gaut­eng, the eco­nomic heart­land of the SA econ­omy, has its own wa­ter scarcity is­sues, ex­ac­er­bated by ma­jor de­lays in phase II of the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP).

The first part of phase II of the LHWP was meant to come on­line in 2018, but has been de­layed un­til 2025. Phase II is ex­pected to in­crease the sup­ply rate of 780m cu­bic me­tres a year in­cre­men­tally to more than 1.26bn cu­bic me­tres a year. (See side­bar.)

South Africa cur­rently con­sumes be­tween 15bn and 16bn cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter a year, but has a wa­ter yield of 15bn cu­bic me­tres a year, ac­cord­ing to con­sul­tancy firm Green Cape’s 2018 wa­ter mar­ket in­tel­li­gence re­port.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and wa­ter ex­pert An­thony Tur­ton says the de­lays in the LHWP have placed the Gaut­eng prov­ince at risk of wa­ter short­ages un­til 2025.

Mike Muller, pro­fes­sor at the Wits School of Gov­er­nance and a for­mer de­part­ment of wa­ter af­fairs di­rec­tor-gen­eral, agrees. “If we [Gaut­eng] have a drought like Cape Town has had, we will be in se­ri­ous trou­ble,” he says.

The In­sti­tute of Risk Man­age­ment South Africa ranks the wa­ter cri­sis in South Africa in its 2017 re­port as the sec­ond-high­est risk. The high­est risk is in­creas­ing cor­rup­tion.

Con­sump­tion ex­ceeds sup­ply

South Africa is the 30th dri­est coun­try in the world, and its wa­ter sup­ply is cur­rently un­der ma­jor stress. Yet, av­er­age per capita con­sump­tion sits at 233 litres per day, com­pared to the in­ter­na­tional bench­mark of 180 litres per day.

Agri­cul­ture is the ma­jor con­sumer, us­ing 62% of our wa­ter sup­ply, fol­lowed by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with 27%.

While SA of­fi­cially be­came a wa­ter-con­strained coun­try in 2002, the last time an em­pir­i­cal study of its wa­ter re­sources was done was in 1988, ac­cord­ing to Tur­ton.

Re­cent re­search con­ducted by the Wa­ter Re­search Com­mis­sion shows that SA’s wa­ter re­sources are less than the 1988 data sug­gested.

“The num­bers have been get­ting pro­gres­sively lower,” says Tur­ton. He sug­gests that this backs up the be­lief that the im­pact of cli­mate change is be­ing felt.

Ma­jor in­vest­ment re­quired

Over the next decade, in­vest­ments of over R70bn a year in wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture will be re­quired to en­sure se­cu­rity of sup­ply, ac­cord­ing to Green Cape’s re­port.

Yet the SA pub­lic sees news re­ports about the na­tional de­part­ment of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion (DWS) be­ing broke.

For years al­leged cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture have been ven­ti­lated in the me­dia. Ear­lier this year, Par­lia­ment’s Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Ac­counts (Scopa) re­solved to es­tab­lish a com­mis­sion of in­quiry into the af­fairs of the de­part­ment, which has been de­scribed as be­ing in a “fi­nan­cial cri­sis”.

New min­is­ter Gugile Nk­winti, who took over from Nomvula Mokonyane, has told Scopa that the cur­rent or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture within the de­part­ment makes it near im­pos­si­ble to hold any­one ac­count­able for the R686m of waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture dur­ing the 2016/17 fi­nan­cial year.

The Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit is busy with civil ac­tion against con­trac­tors and DWS of­fi­cials to claw back some of the ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture, while still in­ves­ti­gat­ing some wa­ter-re­lated cases.

How­ever, Nk­winti has pub­li­cally stated that he is go­ing to give guilty DWS of­fi­cials a sec­ond chance, in­sist­ing he will not “con­demn them”.

Muller says Nk­winti’s de­ci­sion to for­give guilty of­fi­cials means at­tempts to re­build the de­part­ment are start­ing off a bad base.

Op­po­si­tion politi­cians have in­sisted that for­mer min­is­ter Mokonyane, who is now the min­is­ter of

com­mu­ni­ca­tions, is to blame for the mess.

Mokonyane has re­peat­edly de­nied any wrong­do­ing dur­ing her term at the de­part­ment and when fin­week con­tacted her for com­ment, her spokesper­son re­ferred fin­week to press re­leases on the DWS web­site pub­lished dur­ing her term.

The de­part­ment of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Turn­ing the de­part­ment around

Muller sug­gests that, sim­i­lar to the split of African Bank, the wa­ter de­part­ment should be split into a “good” and “bad” de­part­ment, where the “bad” de­part­ment would in­clude all projects that are very costly but don’t re­ally meet a need. De­scrib­ing these projects as ways to “siphon off money”, Muller says Na­tional Trea­sury’s re­gional bulk in­fra­struc­ture grants have been used as a “gravy train”, in­cen­tivis­ing the use of big solutions, rather than smaller-scale projects which can be ef­fec­tive.

Claire Pen­gelly, from Green Cape’s wa­ter di­vi­sion, agrees and says all solutions should be con­sid­ered, es­pe­cially local smaller solutions, which would re­quire less in­volve­ment from the de­part­ment and will al­low mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to se­cure their own wa­ter fu­ture.

How­ever, some think­ing needs to go into the mech­a­nisms and fund­ing of these projects, she says.

Plan­ning and mon­i­tor­ing

A ma­jor con­cern right now is that with the na­tional de­part­ment hav­ing run out of money, cut­backs are be­ing made to the plan­ning bud­get. “If that sys­tem col­lapses, we are driv­ing in the dark,” Muller says.

Com­pli­cated com­puter mod­el­ing is used to drive the plan­ning and op­er­a­tions in­volved in man­ag­ing SA’s wa­ter sup­ply sys­tems – prac­tices that are re­quired in or­der to flag po­ten­tial prob­lems early.

Muller says the im­pact of cli­mate change on South Africa’s wa­ter sup­ply is un­cer­tain and the coun­try needs in­ten­sive mon­i­tor­ing to pick up changes if and as they oc­cur. “Wa­ter is go­ing to be af­fected by cli­mate change,” he says. “We need to adapt.”

From a wa­ter man­age­ment per­spec­tive, level

re­stric­tions are key and de­mand re­duc­tion has a “huge” role to play, says Pen­gelly. “You can’t build your way out of a cri­sis,” she says.

Re­stric­tions should be con­sid­ered ag­gres­sively, Pen­gelly says, adding that en­force­ment is key to its suc­cess.

Fund­ing con­straints

One thing is clear – gov­ern­ment doesn’t have the re­quired R700bn to in­vest in wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture over the next decade.

This means se­ri­ous thought is go­ing to have to go into pri­vate par­tic­i­pa­tion in wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture.

Tur­ton es­ti­mates that it is go­ing to cost R800bn just to re­pair ex­ist­ing wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture. Once you look at up­grad­ing in­fra­struc­ture and rolling out new in­fra­struc­ture he ex­pects the num­ber to bal­loon past a tril­lion rand.

He says the “war on white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal” and the ANC’s pro­posed changes to the Con­sti­tu­tion to ex­plic­itly al­low land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion have chased away sig­nif­i­cant for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment into the coun­try and now SA faces sig­nif­i­cant cap­i­tal con­straints.

“How do we grow our econ­omy at 6% per an­num when we have con­straints on wa­ter and cap­i­tal? How do we at­tract cap­i­tal, tech­nol­ogy and skills back into the wa­ter sec­tor?”

Muller says that wa­ter is not very “amenable” to pri­vate sec­tor play­ers want­ing to “come in and make money”. Global prac­tice has shown that of­ten in­cen­tives are cre­ated for the pri­vate sec­tor player to do the wrong thing, he says.

Green Cape’s re­port iden­ti­fies wa­ter ef­fi­ciency, wa­ter re­use, de­sali­na­tion, wa­ter me­ter­ing and mon­i­tor­ing, and al­ter­na­tive wa­ter sup­ply as key ar­eas where op­por­tu­ni­ties are open­ing up for pri­vate sec­tor play­ers.

Pen­gelly says there has been a lot of talk about pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion in the wa­ter sec­tor but no real move­ment, with very few pub­lic/pri­vate part­ner­ships in wa­ter.

“There has been no real think­ing,” she says. “What will it look like?”

Ques­tions need to be asked about how pri­vate sec­tor play­ers are at­tracted to a sec­tor where there is huge risk. “How do we re­duce that risk to make it a vi­able com­mer­cial op­por­tu­nity?” she asks.

Gugile Nk­winti Min­is­ter of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion

Nomvula Mokonyane For­mer min­is­ter of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.