Managing Water Resources in Developing Countries: South Africa As An Example for Policy And Regulation - page 09


Figure 5: Catchment Management Agencies in South Africa (Government of South Africa, 1999).

Figure 5: Catchment Management Agencies in South Africa (Government of South Africa, 1999).


While a number of water resources regulatory instruments already exist and are in use in South Africa, such as water use licensing, deteriorating raw water quality in many areas and high levels of water theft, inter alia, indicate the failure of current regulatory practices to adequately address water resource challenges. There are a number of issues that must be addressed in ensuring an effective and implementable water resources regulatory framework.

The focus of water resources regulation is the efficient, sustainable and equitable use of a scarce natural resource, while the regulation of water services is focused more on the efficient and equitable delivery of reliable, safe drinking water and the safe removal of contaminated water and human excreta. Water resources regulation covers a suite of activities pertaining to the use of, or impact on, raw water and water resources. Water services regulation deals very specifically with the provision and management of treated water and effluent. Both water services and water resources regulation require the regulation of state entities that perform key functions in this area; the core businesses of these entities, however, are profoundly different, and they are governed by different legislation and mandates. Effective economic regulation – the regulation of the price of water – however, should be seen in the context of the total value chain from source to discharge, and as such should be seen in a comprehensive picture across both water services and water resources. This is the only area in which water services and water resources regulation should be truly integrated.

While it is important to understand this broader picture and the roles and mandates of the various players within this picture, the key focus in South Africa currently is on the more formal regulatory processes of the state, relating to policy development, legislation, organisations, and instruments for implementation.

The South African water resources policy and regulatory framework is essentially transformational, in terms of contributing to the transformation of the South African society and economy, while also managing a limited natural resource in such a way that its use is sustainable. These approaches are captured in the White Paper and the National Water Act under the concepts of equity, efficiency and sustainability.

There are a number of principles which underpin the water resources regulatory framework in South Africa and these are drawn from both international experience and South African policy mandates. These principles are also cognisant of the fact that environmental goods such as raw water are regulated for different reasons from other goods. Environmental goods are regulated to prevent the tragedy of the commons. They are also regulated to ensure that the costs and benefits derived from the use of water are equitably distributed and that the poor do not bear the costs (environmental or economic) of environmental exploitation by wealthier sectors of the economy. These principles can be separated into two categories. The first are policy principles which are drawn from the policy enshrined in the Constitution, national development objectives, and the White Paper, and which guide the objectives and purpose of the regulations. The second are operational principles which serve to guide the regulatory framework at the operational level.