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Strategic Water Sector Program

The water authorities in South Africa are seeking solutions to establish a strong and resilient water sector to embrace societal water challenges, i.e. water scarcity. Because of that, in 2015 South Africa requested a closer cooperation with Denmark, seeing how strong the country is on the water front. Consequently, the Danish Minister of Environment and Food and the South African Minister of Water and Sanitation signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of water - water use and water resources in November 2015.

The cooperation is headed jointly by Danish and South African ministries, but further includes stakeholders from local government, water utilities, research institutions, industry organizations and private sector. 

The purpose of the program is to support the South African government agencies and other relevant stakeholders in developing and implementing strategy, management and regulatory frameworks to contribute to the National Water Resource Strategy (2013), namely that “water is efficiently and effectively managed for equitable and sustainable growth and development.” 

The program is divided into three thematic areas and two crosscutting components. Each of the themes contains a strategy/policy component and an operational demonstration component.

Thematic Area 1: Urban Water Management 

South Africa has a huge potential to limit water waste, and more specifically non-revenue water (NRW), and thereby ensure revenue in municipalities for investments and maintenance in urban water infrastructure. The average non-revenue water in South Africa is currently at 35%, with some municipalities facing up to 70%, as opposed to 7% in Denmark.

In the area of urban water management, the program therefore aims to support efforts to address the non-revenue water challenge through providing support in the strategy and policy component of the no-drop programme, as Denmark has long-term and in-depth experience experiences with systematic water leakages and integrated solutions for non-revenue water.

The thematic area is divided into three main activities:

  • Evaluation of National non-revenue water benchmarking framework and proposals for operationalization
  • Development of a No Drop Guideline
  • Input to and testing of guidelines for applying No Drop benchmarking data and reports as recurrent instrument to direct and design an intervention program

Thematic Area 2: Groundwater  

South Africa is currently looking to diversify its water resources and has a large potential in the groundwater sector, as this is an overlooked water resource. 99% of drinking water in Denmark comes from groundwater, and thus Danish practices, technologies and the developed legal framework are of the highest quality.  

The groundwater efforts focus on challenges in well-field and aquifer management at municipal level in South Africa. Many boreholes and well fields are not sufficiently well-managed and maintained, which contributes to both underutilization and underrating of the groundwater resource. 

The thematic area is thus divided into two activities:

  • Integrating international learnings and best practices in the final drafting process of the new National Groundwater Strategy and into future enforcement
  • Inputs to a first draft of guidance documents on integrated well field and aquifer management in SA are provided. 

Thematic Area 3: Water Efficiency in Industries 

Improving water efficiency in South Africa is high on the water agenda, and by zooming in on the industries, there is a lot to be saved already. Main drivers are risks of water scarcity and possible water rationing, abstraction and discharge permits requirements and risks of deteriorating water quality, competing water use, rising water prices and demand for demonstrating water stewardship. 

Water efficiency in the food and beverage industries is a high priority in Denmark due to strict water prices and environmental regulation. The know-how and advanced technologies from Denmark can prove valuable to South Africa’s efforts to promote water efficiency in industries. 

The component is divided into sub-activities: 

  • Reviewing strategy, policy and regulatory framework for water efficiency in industry, providing recommendations for needed improvements and advancing appropriate new strategies and policies
  • Promoting, testing and disseminating approaches for analyzing and implementing water efficiency interventions in the food and beverage industry and enhancing awareness and analytical skills on water efficiency in industry

Crosscutting component 1: Water sector research and innovation

The crosscutting component on research and innovation aims to enable strategic cooperation on sector and institutional level between the Danish and South African research sectors guided by the framework of the South African Water Research, Development and Innovation Road Map (SA RDI). The research sector has expressed interest in engaging on modalities for getting research results closer to the market. Main activities are joint research capacity mapping, match making events, joint research funding mapping and facilitation of joint research applications. 

Crosscutting component 2: Water Sector Financing and business models

The water sector financing and business models component focuses on overcoming barriers to investment and financing of water sector projects. Challenges to the bankability of water infrastructure projects need to be identified, including lack of ring fencing of revenue from water tariffs for reinvestments in water. The component aims to tap into current initiatives and facilitate the mobilization of Danish financing facilities IFU and EKF in the South African water sector.

SDG facility – TableMountain Water Source Area Partnership 

In transition and growth economies, Denmark has a unique opportunity to support strategically important development activities. Therefore, a ‘Sustainable Development Goals Facility’ has been established to enable selected embassies, including the South African one, to respond to opportunities that might arise in cooperation with civil society, public authorities, private sector representatives and social partners.

Because of the increasing challenges South Africa is facing to its water supply, driven by outdated and worn-down infrastructure as well as weak or lacking management. It is a high priority to improve water resource management by supporting the existing authorities and by mobilizing the communities and private sector that are resident in the areas and reliant on the water source. South Africa is a largely dry country; therefore, great value is placed on those areas that produce high volumes of water. Such areas are termed Strategic Water Source Areas (SWSAs) and they supply a disproportionate amount of runoff and recharge. Even the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan highlights that these areas need protection. WWF has now started the process of structuring and institutionalizing Community Public Private Partnerships as an organizational mechanism to mobilize communities and private sector, in collaboration with National Government, to support the sustainable management of the Table Mountain Strategic Water Source Are.

The last drought in South Africa – and Cape Town specifically, has shown that groundwater is increasingly becoming a viable water source for bulk and private water provision. The framework of groundwater policies, regulations, bylaws, monitoring and institutional mandates, which would ensure the sustainable use of this water resource by various governance bodies and stakeholders are currently not in place, not well understood, nor operational.

As a high user of groundwater, Denmark has specific interest and expertise in this field, wanting to foster strategic groundwater work in South Africa. Furthermore, it is supportive of the partnership approach that WWF has embarked on. The Water Source Area Partnership approach is a perfect combination of a strategic partnership that focusses on groundwater. The governance components and technical groundwater mapping and monitoring components of the present project is well aligned with the existing South African – Danish Strategic Water Sector Cooperation (RSA-DK SSC) and the project will contribute to the application and sustenance of approaches and management modalities developed in the RSA- DK SSC. Hence, the Embassy is offering its support.

The TM-SWSA will support the mandated government bodies in enacting their role and mandate, and will further mobilize the public – local communities in particular, as well as the private sector. The TM-SWSA partnership should hereby contribute to ensuring that groundwater is well understood, monitored and regulated as a critical water resource.

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For more information on the Danish-South African Water Partnership, please contact Tine Anbæk ([email protected]) or Refilwe Felicity Damane ([email protected])