Water pump filling reservoir during drought 

Johannesburg, South Africa (May, 2017) – Last week, South Africa held its first National Water and Sanitation Dialogue. It gathered stakeholders from the agriculture, manufacturing, energy and mining sectors amongst others. The aim of the dialogue was to provide input into the conceptualisation of the country’s new master plan on water and sanitation. This plan is expected to be finalized as early as the end of the year.

Speaking at the dialogue, Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, Ms Pamela Tshwete, challenged stakeholders in particular big business, to assist with the development and implementation of the master plan.

In response, Eskom’s water management lead, Nandha Govender, presented private sector initiatives the public utility is implementing together with corporate partners, the Department of Water and Sanitation and civil society through the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN). SWPN is a multi-stakeholder partnership aimed at helping close South Africa’s 17 percent demand-supply water deficit gap, by 2030. For example, the Partnership has worked to address some of the water resource management challenges affecting South Africa’s mining industry.

Although mining companies currently treat their effluent in accordance with national regulations, the continued installation of energy and capital intensive mine water treatment facilities is unlikely sustainable in the long run. While a relevant regional approach for an entire mining area is ideal, it requires agreement on actionable solutions, as well as how costs are partitioned among mining companies—with respect to operational mines, and the state—with respect to non-operational mines as required by law.

To address this challenge, the SWPN helped establish a mine water coordinating body in the Emalahleni (formerly Witbank) coal mining area, which begins approximately 100 km east of the capital city, Pretoria and runs mostly along the Olifants River catchment. The mine water coordinating body brings together area stakeholders from the public and private sectors and civil society to address some of the mine’s most pressing challenges.

Over the next 30 years, several mines are expected to close in the Emalahleni region. At present, area stakeholders must determine who will manage, operate, maintain and finance post-closure discharge water treatment facilities, already built by mining companies. Given that costs will not be recovered by selling treated water to municipalities alone, even when initial capital costs are subtracted, another solution must be found. The incentive of course, is that finding the solution will mean an increased water supply in the region. This is just one way, in which the private sector can make a contribution to the master plan. There are other projects that the SWPN is pursuing and will explore, in order to help and improve national water security.

To learn more about how the SWPN is catalysing public-private-civil society partnership, or to become involved, contact us at: secretariat.swpn@thenbf.co.za

 

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