The Water Partnership Office will play a key role in facilitating collaboration between government and the private sector when they undertake projects aimed at boosting water infrastructure in the country.
Water and Sanitation Minister, Senzo Mchunu, says the office — established by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) with the assistance of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) — serves as a “special purpose vehicle” to facilitate partnerships and manage joint accounts for specific funding for projects implemented through collaboration in the water and sanitation sector.
The office also manages special programmes such as water conservation and demand management (particularly reducing non-revenue water), water reuse, wastewater treatment improvement and seawater desalination, among others.
“The demand for water and sanitation infrastructure development and refurbishment in South Africa has been increasing due to both population and economic growth.
“We also envisage that by the year 2030, there will be a 17% deficit in availability of water and the projected demand at that stage,” Mchunu said.
The Minister is at the Stockholm World Water Week conference, where he participated in a panel discussion titled, ‘How can the private sector finance wastewater treatment in Africa’, on Monday.
Mchunu said the South African government is in support of private sector collaboration, which is meant to ensure water security and the treatment of wastewater.
He said the current rate of infrastructure development has to be increased to sustain and support growth in the country.
“It is for this reason that we felt that collaboration with the private sector presents a mutually beneficial path towards achieving this goal.
“It was quite enlightening to behold the enthusiasm from the private sector to be a partner in projects and programmes towards improving the water sector.”
While acknowledging that collaboration between government and the private sector is still in its infancy, the Minister said great strides are being made.
“The Water Partnership Office is in the process of being adequately capacitated with the necessary skills to ensure that both public and private sector are served well.
“This means that government will benefit from this additional capacity to manage partnerships,” the Minister said.
Water and agriculture
The department is also engaging the agricultural sector with a special focus on collaboration in investing in the refurbishment and upgrades of strategic canal systems to sustain food production in the country.
Mchunu said the benefits of private sector collaboration entail off-set programmes to allow the private sector to assist municipalities with water conservation and demand management, and availing the savings for economic development within communities.
The panel members on private sector investment on wastewater included Diego Rodriguez from the World Bank, Bernice Ndaitwah from Windhoek Wastewater Recycling Project, as well as Anton Earle from Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), among others.
Mchunu is expected to participate in other discussions scheduled to take place during the week, which will explore political commitment and leadership required to transform and improve the investment outlook for climate resilient water security and sustainable sanitation for a prosperous, peaceful and equitable African society.