President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the renewed focus on improving municipal water infrastructure and related services.
The President said the provision of quality water to all communities is essential for human health and well-being, economic development and the realisation of the constitutional rights of all South Africans.
The President made the observation at a meeting of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission Council held on Thursday.
The council brings together the President, Deputy President and other members of the National Executive, Premiers, Executive Mayors, and leadership of the South African Local Government Association and state-owned enterprises.
The council received a report and recommendations regarding the historical, large-scale strategic integrated projects (SIPs) and an update on South Africa’s Infrastructure Investment Plan.
The meeting’s key discussion was on municipal water infrastructure, a complex area in which the council has identified challenges ranging from infrastructure failure (sewer spillages, potholes, leaks and solid waste on streets) to infrastructure service delivery interruptions (water cuts, electricity cuts, road closures and non-collection of refuse).
Water infrastructure is also affected by a shortage of technical skills in local government, poor infrastructure management practices and inadequate budgeting and expenditure on maintenance.
The council resolved that it will enable the planning and coordination function of the water component of the District Development Model through the implementation of a National Water Programme Management Office, jointly owned by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).
It will also strengthen the planning of municipal water infrastructure to access blended finance through the Infrastructure Fund.
The council has also resolved to fast-track the establishment of a National Water Resource Infrastructure Agency and to fast-track the review of the Raw Water Pricing Strategy to ensure effective pricing and cost-reflective tariffs.
An additional intervention is the development of a transparent National Water Tariff Policy and a rigorous revenue collection and management strategy at all stages of the water value chain to ensure sustainable revenue for the water sector.
The council has also proposed the establishment of an Independent National Water Regulator (separating regulation from water resource management and water services provision).
The meeting received briefings by the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Cape Town on planned and current development of water infrastructure.
President Ramaphosa emphasised the importance of infrastructure development to the success of South Africa’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan.
The President highlighted the role of infrastructure development in job creation and the enhancement of the investment climate in the country.