New agency to fix South Africa’s vital water infrastructure

New agency to fix South Africa’s vital water infrastructure

The government of South Africa has embarked on a plan to establish a national water infrastructure agency to refurbish and expand the country’s critical water infrastructure.

The National Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu confirmed that plans are underway to create an agency that will source new water and protect existing resources in the country.
Mchunu acknowledges that the expansion and fixing the dysfunctional infrastructure will cost a fortune but will set the country on a path to water security.

“There will be expenses of course … it’s already very expensive. It requires billions of rands. But it’s still better to tackle the problem now rather than waiting for any other time when it gets more expensive,” he said.

The new National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency will be built around the existing Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), a state-owned entity set up in 1986 to finance and build the South African section of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, but its mandate was later expanded to fund other water projects.

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Mchunu said one of the new agency’s main duties would be to attract new investment by packaging major water infrastructure projects. The idea mooted in 2008 gave the agency the mandate to raise private sector funds, and to utilize the funds to achieve social and economic objectives of the government.

While advocating for new effort to raise loans to rehabilitate existing infrastructure and to build new storage, reticulation and treatment schemes, he decried the large quantities of non-revenue water lost through leakages across the country stating that up to 40 percent of piped water is leaked before reaching households.

“Reticulation is where we have a backlog… to address these difficulties, my department is also considering reconfiguring and streamlining the country’s water service boards. We don’t think we can fail. It’s a question of political will. It’s a question of being prepared to work very hard. It’s a question of being convinced that you will do it. That is what is more required than actual money…”