Wa­ter re­source man­age­ment is all about balance, shar­ing and fair­ness

Public Sector Manager - - Feature -

South African law says that wa­ter needs to be shared fairly among ev­ery­one who needs it and that it should be pro­tected for our chil­dren and their chil­dren and so on. To do this, ev­ery­one must work to­gether to man­age wa­ter re­sources in a sus­tain­able, eq­ui­table, and ef­fi­cient way.


The Inko­mati-Usuthu Catch­ment Man­age­ment Agency (IUCMA) is the wa­ter re­source man­age­ment agency in the Inko­matiU­suthu Wa­ter Man­age­ment Area (WMA). It was es­tab­lished in terms of Sec­tion 78 of the Na­tional Wa­ter Act (Act 36 of 1998) to per­form wa­ter re­source man­age­ment at lo­cal level. The man­age­ment of the re­sources en­tails pro­tec­tion, use, de­vel­op­ment, con­ser­va­tion, man­age­ment, and con­trol of wa­ter re­sources within the WMA as con­tem­plated in the Na­tional Wa­ter Act (NWA). It is also listed as a na­tional pub­lic en­tity in Sched­ule 3A of the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act (Act 1 of 1999). The NWA has three pil­lars i.e. eq­uity, sus­tain­abil­ity, and ef­fi­ciency.


In­volv­ing the com­mu­nity

Ev­ery­one must take part in plan­ning and making de­ci­sions about wa­ter re­source is­sues that af­fect their lives. The IUCMA must cre­ate groups and pro­cesses to man­age dif­fer­ent fac­tors af­fect­ing the catch­ment. Such a group or process must in­clude ev­ery­one who may be af­fected, must be open and hon­est about its in­ten­tions and must be demo­cratic, whereby ev­ery­one’s voice counts.

To en­sure fair­ness, his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­u­als must be trained and em­pow­ered to make in­formed de­ci­sions about wa­ter is­sues. The di­ver­sity of peo­ple and cul­tures in the Inko­mati-Usuthu catch­ment must be em­braced so that a shared un­der­stand­ing of wa­ter re­sources can be built.

Making sure that the wa­ter stays healthy

Check­ing that all the plants and an­i­mals usu­ally found around a river are still there is a good way to make sure the wa­ter is still safe and plen­ti­ful. If the nat­u­ral life seems nor­mal, the river is said to be “healthy” and it must be sus­tained this way for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. This is done through a ded­i­cated unit “River health” equipped with a team of suit­ably qual­i­fied in­di­vid­u­als un­der the direc­torate of Wa­ter Util­i­sa­tion.

Reg­u­lat­ing wa­ter To make sure that there is enough healthy wa­ter for ev­ery­one who needs it, the IUCMA has to make sure that ev­ery­one fol­lows the rules about wa­ter use. Stake­holder em­pow­er­ment work­shops are held to make sure that all con­cerned in­di­vid­u­als are equipped with knowl­edge needed for tak­ing part in wa­ter re­sources man­age­ment re­gard­less of their his­tor­i­cal or ed­u­ca­tional back­ground. Sys­tems have been put in place to make sure that all data col­lected is an­a­lysed and made avail­able to wa­ter users in a user­friendly man­ner. To make sure that all wa­ter users ad­here to the NWA, they need be in pos­ses­sion of a valid wa­ter use li­cence to be able to ab­stract wa­ter from the re­source.

Mon­i­tor­ing and in­for­ma­tion

The IUCMA needs as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble to en­sure that the catch­ment is man­aged prop­erly in sup­port of sus­tain­able eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. It mon­i­tors so­cial, tech­ni­cal, eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal, and po­lit­i­cal fac­tors re­lated to wa­ter re­source man­age­ment in the catch­ment.

Co-op­er­a­tive gover­nance

All sec­tors, or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als must work to­gether to­wards the same goal of making sure that the catch­ment is used sus­tain­ably, eq­ui­tably, and ef­fi­ciently. A ded­i­cated unit of in­sti­tu­tions and par­tic­i­pa­tion ex­ists to make sure all stake­hold­ers are mo­bilised to take part in de­ci­sion-making re­lat­ing to wa­ter man­age­ment in the wa­ter man­age­ment area.


The IUCMA has to en­sure proper man­age­ment of the re­source at the lo­cal level in­volv­ing stake­hold­ers. We do not pro­vide wa­ter ser­vices, but work with wa­ter ser­vices, making sure the re­source that they use and give to peo­ple is pro­tected, clean and safe. We in­ves­ti­gate and ad­vise, as well as em­power stake­hold­ers on wa­ter use, and do ver­i­fi­ca­tion and val­i­da­tion to see whether peo­ple have the right to use wa­ter.

We mon­i­tor wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion, which is a chal­lenge as the Kwena Dam that sup­plies an area from Nel­spruit to Mozam­bique isn’t big enough to re­lease wa­ter for all the peo­ple. The drought has had an im­pact on plan­ning ac­tiv­i­ties in the past year.

We have in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions to hon­our, with an agree­ment to sup­ply a cer­tain vol­ume of wa­ter to the other side of the Crocodile and Ko­mati rivers across the Mozam­bique bor­der.

How­ever, we don’t have wa­ter avail­abil­ity as our catch­ment area gets in­suf­fi­cient rain­fall. We don’t have enough wa­ter stor­age for the re­gion, as we also share wa­ter with Swazi­land and Mozam­bique.

As the first CMA in the coun­try, we are proud of what we have achieved so far. This in­cludes the com­pi­la­tion of the Catch­ment Man­age­ment Strat­egy; re­duc­ing pol­lu­tion in the wa­ter man­age­ment area; em­pow­er­ing stake­hold­ers, es­pe­cially the his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­u­als to un­der­stand is­sues of wa­ter re­sources man­age­ment and leg­is­la­tion; ver­i­fi­ca­tion and val­i­da­tion of wa­ter uses and wa­ter use au­tho­ri­sa­tions and bring­ing stake­hold­ers to­gether. We have also as­sisted schools by pro­vid­ing wa­ter as part of our Cor­po­rate So­cial In­vest­ment.

About Dr Thomas Gyedu-Ababio

The CEO of the IUCMA is Dr Thomas Gyedu-Ababio. After study­ing sci­ence, he worked as a sci­ence teacher for eight years be­fore pur­su­ing his masters and doc­tor­ate in wa­ter qual­ity and wa­ter re­sources man­age­ment. There­after he worked for Rand Wa­ter Board, man­ag­ing the Vaal Dam Catch­ment, fol­lowed by 10 years as the Wa­ter Re­sources Man­ager for the Kruger Na­tional Park. He was ap­pointed to the po­si­tion of CEO of IUCMA in 2016, after serving al­most three years as COO.

CEO, Dr Thomas Gyedu-Ababio

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