Water in the SDGs and the NDP

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals include specific requirements to address water, sanitation, hygiene and slum conditions (United Nations, 2018).

SDG 6.1.1 sets a target for universal access to safely managed drinking water by 2030. This requires households to be able to access water on their premises, and ensure it available when needed and is free from contamination. SDG 6.2.1 sets a target for a safe sanitation. This requires all excreta to be safely disposed of in situ or treated off-site for all by 2030. SDG 11.1.1 sets a target of eliminating informal settlements or slums by 2030.

South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) acknowledges current water service delivery challenges (National Planning Commission, 2012). These include the limited capacity by poor households to pay for services, poor management at municipalities and limited capacity and financial resources to deliver services. Insufficient bulk infrastructure to supply all households with electricity and water services are also identified as problems. The NDP indicates that these issues are compounded by a dwindling pool of experienced water engineers required to support efficient development and maintenance of water systems. In addition, it highlights inequitable usage patterns with unrestrained water consumption by some users leading to insufficient water being available for others.

Climate change is identified as a key risk by the NDP and it indicates the potential for conflict and migration as a result of reduced water availability and food production in some areas. In addition, the lack of coordination and accountability is recognised as a contributor to poorly planned development where bulk infrastructure development has not been aligned with local water requirements.

The National Development Plan defines a broad goal of ensuring all households in South African achieve a clean running water supply in their homes. To achieve this goal and address identified challenges it proposes the following strategies.

Firstly, it recommends that expenditure on public infrastructure should be 10% of gross domestic product and this should focus on transport energy and water.

Secondly, it recommends that a comprehensive water management strategy is developed. This includes an investment programme for bulk water supply and wastewater management for major centres. Management of water resources and infrastructure will be required to be more effective and include more systematic monitoring that involves users and ensures that emerging constraints are responded to effectively.

Thirdly, it proposes a dedicated water conservation and demand management programme with targets. Targets will be allocated to municipalities, industry and agriculture and water demand in urban areas shall be reduced by 15% below business as usual by 2030.

Fourthly, it recommends more effective and coordinated planning at a municipal level and requires a concerted effort from local government to improve access to water and improve the reliability of supply. While municipalities in most areas will retain the responsibility for managing water services directly, alternative solutions will be explored. These include community-based management, local franchising and the use of regional water utilities.

Fifthly, a review of norms and standards for water and sanitation services is recommended. This will consider whether service provision outside formal settlement areas is advisable, given the high cost of servicing scattered communities. As an alternative, a ‘household grant for self-supply’ is proposed.

Sixthly, the NDP recommends increased research into water reuse and desalination technologies as well as improving the skills required to develop and operate systems in these fields. It also suggests that there should be a greater application of these technologies where these are demonstrated to be an effective response to local circumstances.

The NDP strategies above provide guidance on how water supply and infrastructure can be addressed. These strategies and their implementation will need to take into account and respond to the changing nature and increased levels of risk represented by climate change.