Managing Water Resources in Developing Countries: South Africa As An Example for Policy And Regulation - page 08


The process of establishing new institutional arrangements for water resource protection and management is in fact in its initial stages. These arrangements include regional and local institutions to manage water resources (CMA, Figure 5) and a new institution to manage and develop national water resources infrastructure (DWAF, 2009).

The institutional reform process serves two principal purposes. Firstly, to decentralise the responsibility for managing water resources to regional and local levels, to facilitate wider public involvement in water matters through established structures of Government, such as municipalities. Secondly, to move the Department of Water Affairs away from the day-to-day water resource management activities towards its ultimate role of developing policy, regulation, planning, monitoring, assessment and providing institutional support.

As part of its support role, the Department has embarked on the development of a capacity building strategy to address capacity limitations in the water sector (DWAF, 2009).

Despite the fact that there are a number of pillars to improved water resources management, in South Africa regulation is seen as a key part of the integrated water resources management (IWRM) armoury, and one which will gain increasing importance as the stress on South Africa's limited water resources increases. Other important elements of the water resources management framework include infrastructure operation, maintenance and development, monitoring and assessment, research, and appropriate institutional design.


Table 3: Main role players in water resources management in South Africa

Role player


Minister of Water Affairs and Department of Water Affairs (DWA) – National and Regional

  • Custodian of water resources and overall policy maker and regulator (there is no independent regulator)
  • Oversees the activities of all water sector institutions
  • Responsible for national/international resource planning and allocation
  • Licenses water use and discharges and collects abstraction and discharge fees
  • Manages water resources infrastructure (for example, dams) and also some water services infrastructure

Catchment Management Agencies (CMA) – 19

  • Water resource planning and management at the catchment level (where CMAs are not established, DWAF fulfils these functions) In South Africa there are 19 CMAs (Figure 5) but not all are fully functional yet.

Water Services Authorities (WSA) – Typically Municipalities

  • Provision of water services within their appointed areas. Includes metropolitan municipalities, many district municipalities and authorized local municipalities. May contract out service provision to external water services providers.

Water Services Providers (WSPs)

  • Operational water provision and/or sanitation services (as a bulk or retail service).

Water Boards (WBs)

  • Regional or bulk water services providers (sell water to, or accept wastewater from, other water services providers). As WSPs, the Boards are accountable to WSAs; as organs of state, the Boards are owned, controlled and regulated by DWA and National Treasury (NT) under the terms of the Water Services Act, 1998 and the Public Finance Management Act, 1999.

Bodies for International Agreements

  • Specific bodies established as part of the international agreements and conventions such as SADEC Water Office typically in charge of coordination and implementation of international agreements.

National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency

  • Statutory institution in charge of development, maintenance and operation of nationally owned water infrastructure such as the Trans-Caledonian Tunnel and large dams.

Water User Associations (WUA)

  • Associations of water users established to represent the interests and articulate the needs of water users- irrigation boards are being converted into WUA.

Water Research Commission

  • Statutory institution established to coordinate, manage and direct water sector research in South Africa  and disseminate water sector knowledge. It collects and manages the levy for water research and allocates research funds to research institutions on solicited and unsolicited proposals within priority research areas formulated by the WRC in alignment with the objectives of the National Water Policy.

Science Councils and Research Institutions

  • State research and science councils, universities and other research organisations including private companies and consultants with research capacity to respond to the research and development needs of the water sector.