Deputy Chairperson and hon members, I bring greetings from the Gauteng provincial government, led by the hon premier, Nomvula Mokonyane.
Water is a constitutional right and we need to ensure that there is universal access to water for all our people. They should have access to affordable and quality water. At the same time, we must also manage this natural resource for our future generations.
Gauteng has a strategy on sustainable water supply and water quality, and I realise that it is in line with the topic of the debate today of "Advancing national water resource management for sustainable water supply to our people".
Since 2005, the national Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, in partnership with our province and other key stakeholders, has been planning and driving the process for an adequate and sustainable water supply to Gauteng. The sector departments in the province, various industries and interested stakeholders have been participating in the process.
We had a water summit in 2005, which paved the way for the collaboration between sector departments and municipalities as to the requirements and recommendations made at the summit. Other water indabas have also been held to report on progress and to strategise. This has paved the way for the development of the Water for Growth and Development initiative in Gauteng.
The province has also conducted many studies with the objective to determine whether a sufficient water supply will be available to boost the economic growth and development for Gauteng. One of the key studies finalised was the Vaal River System: Large Bulk Water Supply Reconciliation Strategy in 2009.
The study focused on the supply area of the Vaal River system, which stretches from Gauteng to the Mpumalanga Highveld, the North West province, the Free State and the Northern Cape. The Vaal River system was augmented by schemes from the Tugela and Usutu Rivers, as well as the Lesotho Highlands Project, to meet the growing water requirements and interbasin transfer schemes.
Other studies that were concluded were the Gauteng Water Sector Plan and the implementation strategy, which was developed in 2006, covering the period 2006 to 2011. In September 2008, the municipal water indabas were held to develop regulations and to look at skills plans, financial plans, asset management plans, sanitation plans, as well as an integrated water resource and conciliation strategy.
During 2009, the Blue Drop Certification was developed for drinking water and quality management, and the Green Drop Certification was developed for waste water management nationally. Our province, in partnership with the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs and the Rand Water Board - at least we do have a Rand Water Board, a water utility in Gauteng - also carried out studies on water losses in municipalities and implemented projects for water conservation and water demand management.
We do want to salute the municipalities in Gauteng, led by Johannesburg, for taking this matter of conserving water very seriously. In 2009, the province conducted a status quo report on all the waste water treatment plants in the province, covering the age of the plants, type of technology, capacity and overloading, staff capacity, as well as skills, functionality, analysis of effluent compliance and the operations and maintenance issues.
We do acknowledge that South Africa is indeed a water-scarce country and Gauteng, being the economic hub, needs to support the growing demand for water required by the developing economy and population. As such, we are at work, addressing challenges such as rapid urbanisation. We cannot stop people coming from other provinces into our province, into Johannesburg, with the hope of getting jobs and shelter, so we welcome them with open arms in Gauteng.
We are also addressing issues of service delivery backlogs and their related impact; job creation; skills shortage; sustainable free basic services - in particular, access to water; as well as waste water quality compliance. Not all of our metropolitan areas are located close to major rivers which can support the water supply. All of the above challenges in some way or another have an impact on water and the environment; hence, our municipalities have taken this matter very seriously and have committed themselves to sustain water resources.
We also believe that the citizens of Gauteng and South Africa have a role to play. The role of citizens must be developed via training and education. The middle and high-income groups, however, tend not to appreciate the seriousness of water conservation and demand management required in the province and the country.
We are, however, addressing this matter with the citizens of Gauteng. It is important for all of us to treasure water. All households have a responsibility to work with the municipalities and sector departments to ensure that water is used appropriately and conserved.
We have also agreed on various mitigating approaches and strategies to sustain the water supplies in our province, which include rainwater harvesting. We believe that rainwater harvesting is very relevant and effective in the urban edge of Gauteng.
Most informal areas are farmland, which creates an investment problem in line with government policy. We have, however, agreed with various municipalities and the farming sector that we must indeed harvest the rainwater. This will also improve the lives of the poor who live off the land, in terms of access to water for local farming, cooking, drinking and bathing.
We have also looked at the role of the agricultural sector, as well as mining, because we believe that these sectors also consume a lot of water. Agriculture and mines have a great role to play in water usage, water recharging and water pollution.
In agriculture, the use of water from the Vaal River system is important, as it reduces the available water resources to power our economy. The use of fertilisers and run-off from the farming operations can also pollute the river water and lead to additional expenses in the purification process.
We have had various meetings with our farmers, and we have all agreed that we really need to look at mitigating the challenges. In the mining sector, seepage of water into the mines is a challenge, and it has to be regularly pumped out for mining operations to continue.
I am happy that hon Mncube, who spoke before me, has addressed the challenge of acid mine drainage, something which we are also addressing in Gauteng. Therefore I am not going to waste time by referring to that. It has been adequately covered. We therefore believe that the monitoring of mining operations and their impact on the environment must be regulated by the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs.
The pillars of the Water for Growth and Development Framework strategy are the following. The first pillar is about strengthening sectoral co- operation and planning. We believe that the government alone cannot achieve the management of water resources in a sustainable manner.
Therefore we feel that we need to work together with other stakeholders, wherever they are. This is also about a water mix which should be at the forefront of planning, looking at the water supply, as well as looking at surface water, groundwater, return flows and waste water, as we discussed.
We are also committed to ensure that ...