We need an independent water regulator, says OUTA and Water Shortage SA

The Department of Water and Sanitation’s failure to effectively regulate South Africa’s water sector requires serious and effective intervention

The Department of Water and Sanitation’s failure to effectively regulate South Africa’s water sector requires serious and effective intervention, and the establishment of a regulator independent from the department is a solution that both the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) and Water Shortage South Africa agree on.

Water Shortage SA have agreed to collaborate in championing for the establishment of an independent regulator in South Africa. Key drivers for the initiative are to:

  • Permanently address the department’s failures in regulating South Africa’s water sector; 

  • Ensure no political interference in how water is regulated; and 

  • Unlock and facilitate investment in South Africa’s water sector to ensure sustainable economic and socio-economic development.

The organisations have identified, among other things, the following lapses in water regulation that highlight the need for a regulator:

  • Blue and Green Drop Reports have not been published since 2014;

  • The Vaal River is seriously polluted by untreated sewage discharge;

  • Water pricing in municipalities is not regulated resulting in under recoveries and compromised services;

  • Agriculture is not able to access the required volumes and quality of irrigation water during normal seasons and drought; and

  • Municipalities are on average leaking 37% of their water.

The process towards this objective will have to consider competing schools of thought and interests. Part of OUTA and Water Shortage SA work will be navigating this terrain with the assistance of specialists which form part of its steering committee to be chaired by Yamkela Ntola, OUTA’s Water and Environment Portfolio Manager, and Benoît Le Roy, Chief Executive Officer of Water Shortage SA.

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Over the next two years the steering committee aims to engage all interested and affected stakeholders across the country to gather and consolidate their inputs to present before the appropriate state institutions. This will include, but will not be limited to, the agricultural, mining, manufacturing and the food and beverage industries.

The establishment of an independent water regulator – like the National Energy Regulator for South Africa (NERSA) in the energy sector – is long overdue. As civil society organisations, OUTA and Water Shortage SA, together with business, look forward to providing solutions that will result in an effective and efficient water sector.

A more detailed statement on this initiative is here.

OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.