Abstract

In 2012, the South African Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) initiated a study: Continuation of the Northern Planning Region's All Towns Reconciliation Strategies: Phase 1. This study reviewed, prioritised and updated the rudimentary All Towns strategies initially developed by DWS in 2011. The purpose of the strategies was to reconcile water requirements with available resources for the 2011–2035 planning horizon by estimating the projected water requirements, determining available water resources (surface and groundwater) and developing a water balance. Recommendations were made to conserve, manage and administer local water sources as well as to augment water supplies from other sources if required. The recommendations provided actions and options for implementation by the relevant Water Services Authorities and the DWS at a local and regional level, providing the opportunity for integrated and coordinated planning. Bulk and reticulation metering, the implementation of water conservation and demand management programmes and recommendations on the updating of water use allocations were prioritised. Detailed studies required to determine the most feasible water resource augmentation options to ensure a positive water balance were identified. The study coordinated efforts by officials and stakeholders representing both the water resources and water services sectors. The prioritised strategies defined the deficit or surplus of the water resources per water source on a technical level, but also highlighted the need for planning and coordination between the water resources and water services sectors. The strategies are not legally mandated documents, but represent some of the best efforts spanning across various sectors to realise coordinated water infrastructure planning in DWS’ Northern Planning Region. The use of the documents in the local, district and national planning environments should be promoted for integrated planning, and it may be fitting to incorporate the All Towns Reconciliation Strategy documents as a valuable resource to inform the water legislation currently being reviewed.

INTRODUCTION

In 2012, the South African Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) commissioned a study: Continuation of the Northern Planning Region's All Towns Reconciliation Strategies: Phase 1. (Prior to 2009, water, sanitation and forestry were the responsibility of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). From 2009, up until 2014, it was the Department of Water Affairs (DWA), under the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs. When the sanitation function was transferred back from the Department of Human Settlements in 2014, it became the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).) The purpose of this study (completed 2016) was to update prioritised selections from the existing 2011 rudimentary strategies, considering new population figures (Census 2011, but the data only became available in 2013) and projections, as well as other regional water resource reconciliation studies which have been completed. The 2012 study was part of an on-going process to ensure that sufficient water could be made available for pertinent developmental imperatives in and around all towns in South Africa. Each strategy was conducted per cluster area comprising of water users (all sectors, individual or entities) from the same water source.

The All Towns Reconciliation Strategies (hereafter referred to as the strategies) provide an instant overview of the water requirements, versus available water resources for a localised area. This is based on traditional planning methods developed for the South African context (CSIR 2000), considering local but also international guidelines. It is important to realise that this assessment is therefore available on a town or water supply level and for the whole of South Africa, a water-stressed country (South Africa 2018).

Credit must be given to the DWS for seeing how best to utilise South Africa's water resources, having only 829 m³ per annum per capita of renewable internal freshwater resources in 2014 (FAO 2014). The significance of this statistic becomes evident when it is compared with the United Nations’ standard for water stress, namely 1 700 m³ per capita, per annum (Van Koppen et al. 2016). South Africa is furthermore a developing country, with ever-increasing socio-economic needs, dependent on natural resources, most importantly – water.

The DWS initiative to perform these studies to enhance the knowledge base on the water situation, must be emphasised. Even though this level of investigation is not a legal requirement from either water supply institutions or the regulator, being DWS, they saw the urgency to improve knowledge and understanding of our scarce water resources.

These studies were conducted for each of the DWS Planning Regions (based on catchment areas), namely the Northern, Central, Eastern and Southern Regions. The study area (on which this paper is based) for the Northern Planning Region is illustrated in Figure 1. The review and update of the All Towns Reconciliation Strategies’ studies are viewed as a continuous process that will allow alignment between these and the larger reconciliation strategies performed on a regional river basin level.

Figure 1

Northern Planning Region study area.

Figure 1

Northern Planning Region study area.

The All Towns Reconciliation Strategies would further assist the DWS and Water Services Authorities to evaluate areas of opportunity and areas of intervention in their mandate for universal access to water supply to all by 2025 (Department of Water and Sanitation 2015c). The All Towns Reconciliation Strategies were advocated to form part of the local and regional planning activities in municipalities, the DWS Regional Offices (provincial) and DWS Head Office. Municipalities are obliged to refer to the findings and recommendations of the All Towns Reconciliation Strategies when applying for grant funding for water projects (Department of Water and Sanitation 2015b; South Africa 2014).

The study activities and processes including stakeholder engagements (SSC: Strategies Steering Committee) and study management (SMT: Study Management Team) is illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2

All Towns Reconciliation Strategies study. Study communication and process.

Figure 2

All Towns Reconciliation Strategies study. Study communication and process.

This paper aimed to look closely at the relationship between South Africa's water institutions responsible for both water resource management and water services (water and sanitation) management - as the one cannot function without the other – to establish an idea of water available versus water requirements. It asked questions about the information available: how it is utilised and analysed; if there are commonalities in recommendations to achieve a positive water balance; how the results are presented, made accessible and can be taken up in operational and long-term planning. It further touched on the human interactions, the actors and agencies’ involvement in water resource and services planning and management.

The sections of this paper discuss the methodology followed in conducting the study (review and update of the existing, prioritised All Towns Reconciliation Strategies); elaborate on why they are important tools in water resource and water services planning; give a summary of key findings; then end with a concluding section.

Each strategy included:

  • an executive summary for a concise summary of the strategy findings and recommendations;

  • demographics for the current and projected future situation;

  • water requirements for the current and future situation;

  • water resources: surface and groundwater; quantity, availability and quality;

  • water balance for the current and future situation, in five-year increments;

  • existing water supply and sanitation infrastructure (treatment works and service levels);

  • reconciliation options to meet current and future water requirements based on available water resources;

  • water balance, with reconciliation options; and

  • conclusions and recommendations.

METHODOLOGY TO DEVELOP THE ALL TOWNS RECONCILIATION STRATEGIES

This section briefly outlines the methodology and approach followed in development, review and update of the All Towns Reconciliation Strategies.

Prioritisation of strategies for review and update

The 2011 study area covered 229 separate town supply areas. Due to budget constraints for Phase 1, the 2011 strategies were screened and a prioritisation process followed to select 53 strategies for review and update during Phase 1 (Department of Water Affairs 2013a). The selection and prioritisation process followed a two-pronged approach. Firstly, it was all about identifying (by the Study Management Team) the strategies that had a water balance deficit; eliminating the strategies where solutions were already in an advanced stage of implementation (latest project lists from DWS Directorate: Water Macro Planning were consulted); adding strategies where solutions could still potentially be influenced by this study process and adding strategies that were identified as hot-spot areas of strategic importance.

Secondly, a workshop was held with stakeholders in the Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga Provinces respectively: establishing the Strategies Steering Committee; presenting the first phases of the study and discussing preliminary priorities with stakeholders incorporating local knowledge and area-specific experience (Department of Water and Sanitation 2013).

Demographics, water requirements and infrastructure

A water requirements model was developed utilising the existing strategies’ demographics scenario report (Department of Water Affairs 2010), the 2011 Census (STATSSA 2013) and the Guidelines for Human Settlement Planning and Design (CSIR 2000). The 2011 Census (data available in 2013) was the primary data source from which population, water service levels, urban/rural classification, dwelling structure classification and income level groupings were derived. The data were extracted for each small area layer (lowest geographic level of census information) and incorporated into a database for this study. This composite information for each small area was further categorised into nine classes of water consumption estimates, ranging from low (no formal services), to high (full services).

During the calculation of the theoretical water requirements, allowance was made for acceptable treatment and distribution losses. Allowance was also made for differences in residential (domestic) and non-residential consumption.

The theoretical water requirements were calibrated against actual water consumption figures (where available) and estimated opportunities for water savings and avoidable losses (Department of Water and Sanitation 2015a).

A tabulation model was developed for each strategy's small areas (spatially determined from the strategy's cluster GIS footprint), to calculate the demographics and water requirements for the present and a projected future situation, for a low and high scenario. 2011 was used as the base year, then projections were made for five-year intervals from 2015 to 2035. In this model, one of three service level upgrade options were applied, based on the characteristics of the town/s or village/s in a cluster – with progressively higher levels of service over time (Department of Water and Sanitation 2015a).

If and where possible and available, summary information on the existing bulk infrastructure and service levels were reported.

The updated GIS footprint revealed that some rudimentary strategies should rather be combined as it would represent the water source and its consumers more accurately in the demographic, water requirements and water balance analysis. The initial number of prioritised strategies therefore became 37 due to the consolidation of some areas into larger clusters.

Water resources and water balance

Information on water resources’ yield, available yield and quality were obtained from various reports, including the Department of Water Affairs’ reports on the drought operating rules for stand-alone dams/schemes; larger reconciliation strategies; local feasibility studies and information provided by knowledgeable individuals (Department of Water and Sanitation 2016a, 2016b). Furthermore, the DWS Water Registration Management System (WARMS) provided information on water use licensing allocations. Depending on the water resource information available, stochastic yield recurrence intervals of 1:50 (98% assurance or reliable yield) and 1:20 (95% assurance or reliable yield) years were applied.

For some of the areas, geohydrology specialists conducted ad hoc groundwater investigations to confirm potential and available yield for domestic use and simultaneously reported on water quality.

The water balance was firstly determined for a cluster without any reconciliation options. It was then determined, incorporating potential reconciliation options, including Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/WDM). As an example, the water balance for the Koster and Reagile cluster (rural towns with a total population of 19 469 in 2011) is illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Koster and Reagile cluster water balance.

Figure 3

Koster and Reagile cluster water balance.

Reconciliation options, conclusions and recommendations

For each strategy, reconciliation options such as WC/WDM, rainwater harvesting, groundwater use and re-use were considered along with strategy-specific opportunities to meet present and future water supply requirements. Where available, topic-driven studies were consulted such as WC/WDM Business Plans (Department of Water Affairs 2012a) developed for a district municipality, or the State of Non-Revenue Water in South Africa (McKenzie et al. 2012), to support the reconciliation options.

The conclusions and recommendations were provided in a clear and concise format, in written and graphic form as illustrated in Figure 3 – here it is evident that the licensed water allocation and the water requirements exceed the yield of the Koster Dam (1:50 recurrence interval).

Final deliverables

The final deliverables of the study consisted of the updated strategies, per province (applicable to the Northern Planning Region); the background information documents (BID) and newsletters prepared during the three-year period of the study; summary reports per district municipality, in an easy-to-navigate tabular format; the GIS information representing each strategy cluster's spatial footprint and linkage to the strategy reports (via a unique identifier); and all study workshop presentations and study team meeting minutes (Department of Water Affairs 2013b; Department of Water and Sanitation 2016b). All items were provided to the DWS Directorate: National Water Resource Planning.

The DWS has an All Towns Strategies Study project web portal for the Northern Planning Region (http://www.dwaf.gov.za/Projects/AllTownsRecStrat_NP/default.aspx) and individual strategies can be obtained from the DWS Directorate: National Water Resource Planning's Chief Engineer for the Northern Planning Region.

DISCUSSION

This section presents a brief discussion of some of the study's aspects and findings.

Why are the All Towns Reconciliation Strategies important?

The strategies are the only nationally-wide available document (with supporting data), on a town level (grouped per cluster that utilise the same water source), to have reconciled present and future water requirements, based on the current available water resources. They include a water balance (with reconciliation options) to immediately gauge the water availability situation for a particular area.

The strategies are advocated to form part of the local, provincial and national planning activities performed by municipalities, provincial and national government (Department of Water Affairs 2013c). Furthermore, the DWS commissioned several Larger Water Systems’ Reconciliation Strategies studies and some are continuing (maintenance phases) to ensure they stay relevant. Findings and recommendations from the Larger Systems’ studies and from the All Towns Reconciliation Strategies are and should continue to be synchronised to keep the strategies up-to-date.

The strategies are utilised to provide guidance in selection and prioritisation of investigative and feasibility studies. Conversely, the strategies are consulted where investigations are initiated in the development of water resources or water supply infrastructure (Umgeni Water 2016).

The concept of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) has been incorporated into the water legislation of South Africa [National Water Act No. 36 of 1998 and Water Services Act No. 108 of 1997] (South Africa 1997; 1998). Active participation and recognising water as a finite resource were two of the IWRM principles (Department of Water Affairs 2009; Mehta et al. 2016) applied in this study. The workshops, study team meetings and further interactions with municipalities and government officials contributed to the dissemination of information, creating awareness of water source and infrastructure issues, and quantification of the water resources and water services situation at a localised level (Meissner et al. 2013).

Furthermore, it encouraged individuals in the water sector to share their experience and knowledge of water resources and water services, some of which may not be formally documented. This is especially the case in the local context (micro scale), where officials have been involved for many years, even decades, but are now nearing retirement.

An informed perspective of the present and projected future water balance and reconciliation options highlights the urgency to conserve and protect South Africa's water resources, viewing it as a finite resource. The strategies’ studies illustrate South Africa's water vulnerability and emphasise the high spatial variability of available water resources and how dependent we are on the optimal and responsible management of water transfers between catchments. Studies such as these should receive greater attention by water governance actors and agencies as noted in the case of the City of Cape Town's unprecedented water crisis (AFP 2018).

The 2013 National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS) of the Department of Water Affairs as well as earlier versions (the 2004 NWRS), emphasised that full cost recovery of water needs to be applied in the form of tariff setting, valuing water as an economic good. The local utilisation and development of water sources (where available) are strongly encouraged in all the strategies.

The strategies, apart from their technical contribution, serve as strategic planning documents highlighting important water use and water sharing aspects on a local, catchment, national and international/transboundary level. They bring water as an essential resource (for life) right to the fore in the engineering, socio-economic development, ecological conservation and political-administrative aspects of a country.

SOME KEY FINDINGS

Although each cluster area was examined individually and reconciliation options identified pertinent to that cluster, there were a few commonalities that emerged and applied to many of the areas.

  • Water conservation and water demand management was the first and foremost option for identifying potential savings and utilising water more efficiently. Some of the strategy areas either have WC/WDM plans, or are included in larger, regional studies that developed WC/WDM programmes. To illustrate, the Rustenburg Local Municipality and Vaalkop South Bulk Supply area strategy indicated (through the municipality's WC/WDM programme), that potential savings of 6.818 million m³/a (18.679 megalitres per day) could be achieved (Department of Water Affairs 2016). There were however strategy areas where no steps have been taken yet to investigate, develop and implement WC/WDM programmes. As a result of the updated strategies, responsible authorities have been advised to do so.

  • This study identified the need for the improvement of metering and record keeping in many clusters, providing metered data for water abstractions (surface and groundwater), treatment and distribution. The old adage: to measure is to know in order to manage (Sewnarain 2010), still applies. It further links to the WARMS and overall water resource system management and its operating rules – having correct input volumes to calculate the water balance.

  • Municipalities have made progress in establishing water infrastructure asset registers. Some even have information systems for water supply management. Up-to-date information on water supply infrastructure design and operating capacities is critical to understand the full system and status related to available water sources. This includes the design and operating capacities of treatment works and bulk infrastructure.

  • Water use is registered and licensed in the WARMS, maintained by the DWS. Municipalities and large water users (all sectors) have a certain licensed allocation for water abstraction and use volumes. The study found that many of the registered and licensed volumes are actually less than the current water use and need to be updated (via the established formal processes) on the WARMS to ensure accurate reflections of water use from a water source (surface and groundwater) and basin. These studies highlighted the fact that if information is published or presented (typically reported from a database or standard report), it will be much easier to spot areas in need of improvement or update.

  • The strategies’ studies were conducted on a cluster level (the area including one or more towns supplied from the same source) and the DWS initiated several overarching, larger water supply systems’ Reconciliation Strategies Studies (catchment or river basin level, such as the Olifants River Water Supply System Reconciliation Strategy). Information from both levels were synchronised and incorporated in the study process. It is important that findings from the strategies be incorporated into the larger reconciliation strategies and vice versa.

  • The study identified several areas where further investigations and feasibility studies need to be conducted to establish surface water (Glen Alpine Dam, Houtrivier Dam, Lydenburg Dam, Chuene Dam and Albasini Dam) or groundwater augmentation options and availability (many of the rural or smaller cluster areas).

  • Water re-use and water reclamation were recommended as part of the water balance for some clusters (Koster, Phalaborwa, Makhado and water from the Hartbeespoort Dam for industrial use) and in some areas are already applied and should continue to be applied (Rustenburg and Mashishing).

Information from the strategies are being incorporated into a national information system. The strategies are also available from the DWS Directorate: National Water Resource Planning and the DWS website and should ideally form part of standard municipal planning documentation. A nationally-applied and standardised model to establish water requirements would be of value at any level and approach of water resource and water services planning, irrespective of political or catchment boundaries.

CONCLUSION

The DWS set a commendable example when an objective was identified in the National Water Act [Act 36 of 1998] to understand the full extent of water use, development, conservation, management and control in South Africa, and furthermore ensuring that the available water can meet basic human and ecological needs (some for all, forever). The strategies emphasised the need for good governance in promoting equitable water use for development and taking cognisance of strategic and international obligations. The strategies provided a practical water resource planning perspective rather than focusing on operational and managerial infrastructure challenges – there are many other studies and reports conducted on the latter. The DWS and municipalities now need to take the recommendations to the next level – of implementation and continuation.

The strategies are not legally mandated planning documents. However, they serve as a documentary reference framework when projects are evaluated for grant funding (Department of Water and Sanitation 2015b; South Africa 2014). The DWS is currently reviewing the two water acts to combine them into a single act to collectively deal with water resources and water services. This could be an opportunity to include the strategies as legally mandated documents (and ensure funding for its continuation) for development, review and uptake into legally mandated plans required by water resource and water services institutions (such as Catchment Management Strategies and Water Services Development Plans).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution and participation of the Department of Water and Sanitation Directorate: National Water Resource Planning, which was also the study leader and sponsor. We also acknowledge the Department of Water and Sanitation Regional Offices for partaking in study activities and those officials from local government who availed us of their time and shared information to complete the study. Finally, many thanks to Prof. Johann Tempelhoff from the North-West University for his editing and review of this paper.

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