Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media.
Late last month Cabinet approved for gazetting and a public consultation process on the National Water Policy Review. The Review is undertaken as a means to fill in the existing gaps in the water policy and to facilitate necessary amendments. This will also assist Government in meeting the objectives of equity, sustainability and access to water for all.
The review was gazetted on 30 August 2013 and the next 30 days will be a period of public consultations with stakeholders across the country.
The review addresses 12 key policy positions.
Multiple water use approach in planning infrastructure; this incorporates all water uses in an area including water supply, must be adopted in planning of bulk water infrastructure. This approach will also have equity and transformation as a priority.
Access to basic water supply; free basic water supply will be provided to only indigent households, this free basic water supply applies to the provision of a minimum of 25 litres per person per day.
Application of the use it or lose it principle, this means that any authorised water use, including Existing Lawful Use (ELU), which is not utilised for a specified period, should be reallocated to the public trust managed by the Minister as custodian of the nation’s water resources.
Water trading between authorized water users, the position is that there shall be no form of temporary or permanent trading between authorised water users. It will be obligatory for any holder of an entitlement to use water which is no longer utilised to surrender such use to the public trust (the State). This position further strengthens the use it or lose it principle.
Prioritising social and economic equity in the re-allocation of water- priority will be given to water use authorisation applications that meet the equity requirement as provided in the regulatory instruments.
Economic regulation will be applied throughout the water value chain, to avoid any conflict of interest, real or perceived, water use tariffs will be determine annually by DWA, in consultation with National Treasury.
Establishment of Regional Water Utilities, this makes provision for the Minister to issue a directive for a Regional Water Utility to address water infrastructure development and/or maintenance needs in an area.
Roles and Functions of Water Users Associations, the minister will specify a date by which the Water Users Association and irrigation Board will cease to exist, with the appropriate functions related to state-owned water scheme being delegated to a CMA or Regional Water Utility.
Appeal functions to be aligned with NEMA and other appeal mechanisms: In line with NEMA, the process of speedily, cheaply and transparently resolving difference or disagreements will be mediation. The Minister may appoint an independent panel, based on the conditions that he/she deems necessary, to advise on a dispute/s.
Public Water Institutions and appointment of Boards and Chief Executives- the appointment of members of the Board and the Chief Executives of a water institution will be aligned with best practice models, the Presidential Review Committee Report and the Public Finance Management Act.
Powers and Functions of WSAs- A Water Services Authority’s powers and functions will be determined by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs in concurrence with the Department of Water Affairs. DWA will develop norms and standards for technical competence of the authorisation of a Water Services Authority.
Among the major decisions taken is that the National Water Act and the Water Services Act should be brought into one, so as to ensure a seamless approach in Legislation governing water. This is because of the fact that there have been a number of implementation challenges arising from two pieces of legislation.
Challenges that have been identified include that the current Legislation does not contain any mandate at the national level for the development of a strategy that covers the entire water value chain. Although the department is working on an infrastructure investment framework which covers both water supply and sanitation services as well as water resources infrastructure, this is not enabled by any Legislation.
Separate strategies for the management, development, control and protection of water resource and the provision of water supply and sanitation service results in inconsistency in the management of the entire water value chain.
I will now turn to Hydraulic Fracturing or fracking as it is commonly known.
An inter-departmental task team was established in 2011 for the augmentation of the regulatory framework and monitoring of hydraulic fracturing in the Karoo. An interdepartmental Monitoring Committee has been established for unconventional oil and gas exploration and production of which DWA is a member.
The monitoring committee is tasked with reviewing the existing regulatory framework for the regulation of fracking and to develop the necessary regulations and guidelines on the methodologies of hydraulic fracturing. It will also develop guidelines to ensure that the impact of exploration and production of shale gas resources are prevented managed or mitigated.
It is expected that the scope of this considered regulatory measures must apply throughout the country, address hydraulic fracturing and be wide enough to encompass future technologies, provide mitigation of likely impacts on acquifers (groundwater resource) by exploration and production drilling and allow for a well-planned approach.
The measures must also include oil and gas from shale and coal bed methane and water use associated with hydraulic fracturing. The full text of the notice is available on the DWA website on www.dwa.gov.za.
I have taken the decision to issue a notice of intention to declare fracking a controlled activity in terms of section 38 of the National Water Act. The notice includes the Exploration for and or production of onshore unconventional oil or gas resources and any activities incidental thereto including but not limited to hydraulic fracturing which I have approved and signed.
The notice has been published in the government gazette for public comment already. The public and all interested parties will have 60 days from the date of Gazetting to make comments. Various platforms including a postal and an e-mail address have already been created for the public comments process.
What this means is that fracking becomes a water use, thus requiring a water use license. In this regard only matters concerning water resources will be of consideration when licenses are issued, including but not limited to the possible impact of substances and chemicals on the ground water resource.
I must make it clear that our key priority is protecting the environment and our water resources. As such we will take every precaution to ensure that the possible impact of fracking on our water is carefully managed and minimised.