WWF-South Africa has hailed Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's national water and sanitation master plan, saying it highlights the urgent need to act for the benefit of South Africa's water future.
The senior manager of freshwater programmes at WWF-SA, Christine Colvin, said the plan was an important step forward in the face of critical droughts experienced in many parts of the country.
"This plan has been waiting in the wings for the last year, and now needs the urgent attention of the government and partners to ensure institutional and financial resources are available for immediate implementation," Colvin said.
On Thursday, Sisulu introduced the plan, which outlined immediate interventions to sustainably manage South Africa's water resources, News24 reported.
The plan also looks at increasing the pace of water delivery and sanitation to all areas of South Africa, investment in infrastructure, capacity building at municipalities and the department, elimination of waste and curbing corruption and mismanagement.
"We will prioritise capacitating municipalities through a team of experts and professionals who will assist municipalities to discharge their responsibilities effectively and also progressively help them build required capacity," Sisulu explained.
According to Colvin, recognising water-source areas and a commitment to enforce restrictions on destructive activities that compromise the integrity of these areas was critical.
"We wholeheartedly support this along with the commitment to secure funds for restoration and the ongoing maintenance of ecological infrastructure.
"This will require bold new moves by the government and more political muscle for the ministries of water and the environment, particularly in relation to mining," Colvin said.
She added the plan illustrated the department's commitment to the sustainable management of water, saying it was ambitious with far-reaching objectives.
This would require advanced resourcing that the department needed to reconfigure to deliver its target, Colvin said.
According to the 68-page master plan document, it would require almost R900bn to ensure water security by 2030 and beyond.
"We call on the government to prioritise the actions required to break our water crisis cycle and focus on delivering measures to combat the five choke points that threaten our current and future water security.
"These include climate change; land management - and the full roll-out of the catchment management agencies with concurrent influence on land-use and planning; water allocation [in particular the validation and verification exercise]; addressing pollution [with the need to upgrade our existing waste-water treatment works and to deal with acid mine drainage]; and urban planning where cities should urgently reduce leaks and losses and reuse more water and accelerate the 'brown revolution' of low-water sanitation."
Colvin added that, specifically, the "green shoots" the plan highlighted included world-leading water research, a commitment to institution building and transformation as well as the need for effective leadership.