Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation Judith Tshabalala has described the establishment of a water agency as a measure to strengthen water security in the country.
She said while the National Water Resource Infrastructure Agency will not solve all the problems, it would be able to address some of the critical challenges.
She said President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the setting up of the agency in his State of the Nation Address in 2021.
But Tshabalala, who was briefing the portfolio committee on water and sanitation on Tuesday, said the water agency will also be able to raise money from the capital markets to build water infrastructure.
South Africa needs stable water supply for the next few years, following years of neglect and lack of infrastructure upgrades.
Tshabalala said they were aware of the dire situation on the ground, but measures were being taken to address those issues.
“The National Water Resource Infrastructure Agency Bill is not aimed at resolving all the problems in the water sector. As you know, our problems are dire and quite immense. However, it’s aimed at improving the national water resource infrastructure function, water security, socio-economic growth and development,” said Tshabalala.
She said if water resources can be managed properly, they can finance the water infrastructure.
“The issue we are presenting here as you know, the fiscal model for water in South Africa is that it must be self-sustaining and that is how it was designed. Hence, we are here with this Bill.
“Apart from the conditional infrastructure grant to municipalities, a portion of equitable share, which is provided to enable municipalities to provide free basic water to the indigent, the water agency has to be self-financing through revenues from sale of water and sanitation charges,” said Tshabalala.
She said the agency will not replace any existing structure or policy.
But basically its function is to guarantee water security at national level.
The water boards will remain in place.
Ramaphosa has been pushing for the Bill to be sent to parliament and adopted since his Sona in 2021.
Cabinet approved the bill in June, and Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu referred it to parliament for processing.
Tshabalala said the National Development Plan also talks about the water agency.
However, the agency must be able to raise its finances to undertake large-scale infrastructure projects.