South Africans have an obligation to conserve water every day, respect it and use it responsibly and efficiently, as the country is water scarce, states the Department of Water Affairs (DWA), which has budgeted R4-million for this year’s National Water Week (NWW).
The awareness week will be used to launch water schemes that support different indus- tries, such as energy and mining. These include the official commissioning of the Komati Water Augmentation scheme, in Mpumalanga, and the first water impoundment of the De Hoop dam, in Limpopo, says DWA head of communications Mava Scott.
The DWA will also unveil countrywide programmes, such as pipeline building projects and other water reticulation schemes to communities, during NWW to supply rural areas with water.
The theme for this year’s awareness week, from March 18 to 24, is Water is life: Conserve it, respect it, enjoy it.
“South Africa has various agreements and protocols on water management that we share with the region, the continent and the world. The DWA will showcase its integrated water resource management projects in Limpopo to delegates from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, water professionals and Ministers who are expected to attend the launch.
“We will also showcase the work done on the water transfer and hydropower Lesotho Highlands Water Project with the Lesotho government,” Scott says, noting that the United Nations (UN) has also declared 2013 a year of international water cooperation.
As part of this, the UN is encouraging all member countries to showcase and promote collaborative programmes in water management worldwide and share best practices in water management strategies.
He adds that the DWA will also host dia- logues with water partners, such as the Water Research Commission, within and outside the country to deliberate on water challenges affecting the various countries such as South Africa, Lesotho and other SADC member countries.
Together with the South African Post Office, the DWA will launch a series of stamps that commemorate the UN’s year of international water cooperation.
Scott says the department hopes to encourage more South Africans to spread the message of water conservation. The DWA also wants to partner with stakeholders, especially large water consumers, to jointly address the country on the need for better water management and stewardship.
He points out that the DWA has the requisite internal capacity to encourage the implementation of strategies; however, this cannot be done alone.
“We need to galvanise our sector partners and other stakeholders that are affected and interested in the water-related challenges to collaborate and ensure the successful implementation of strategies,” he states.
Scarcity, pollution, climate change, management and wastage are some of the most critical challenges facing the water sector in South Africa and the DWA believes the draft National Water Resource Strategy 2 (NWRS2), which has been gazetted for public comment, and the implementation plan are suitable responses to deal with these challenges.
The draft NWRS2 sets out the strategic direction for water resources management in the country, with a particular focus on priorities and aims for 2013 to 2017. A five-year NWRS is a legislative requirement in terms of the National Water Act.
The draft strategy provides a framework for the protection, use, development, conservation, management and control of water resources in South Africa, as well as the framework within which water must be managed at catchment level in defined water management areas.
Meanwhile, Scott notes that the lack of technical skills in the water sector and other sectors of the economy as great challenges; however, he says the DWA has established a learning academy, at the department’s head office in Pretoria, to deal with the skills shortage.
The department expects the learning academy to lead a sustained campaign to secure a steady supply of high-level skills in water-related science, engineering and management to meet the demands of the DWA and the water sector.
Scott says the department is also reach- ing out to retired technical experts and investing in more skills development through mentorships and learnerships, among others.
He says South Africans can heed the message of NWW by following the DWA’s campaign and helping to highlight water-saving techniques that can be adopted by the nation.
“We have also engaged national news- papers to promote the participation of their readers, through competitions, in spreading the message behind NWW, which takes place only once a year; but the need to save water and manage it better will always remain,” he says, adding that the SADC has mandated South Africa to host the region’s celebrations of World Water Day, which takes place on March 22.