Short-term water impacts such as drought tend to be top of mind for the media, government and public in South Africa. However, while droughts and floods are important short-term risks, there are more critical systemic issues in the water sector that need to be addressed to ensure long-term sustainability of supply in South Africa. These systemic issues include:
- Municipal water supply challenges (driven by infrastructure and institutional capacity issues)
- Water cost increases, in part in response to poor asset management and inadequate revenue collection, but also to address future infrastructure needs
- The need for integrated and long-term strategic planning of human settlements, water resource management and water services
- Declining water quality (with a resultant increase in the need for dilution and associated higher treatment costs)
- Potential regulatory incoherence in water licencing; and
- Complex water institutions with potentially conflicting objectives
As a result of these systemic issues, many of the key water risks facing industry cannot be adequately solved through company operational measures. An effective response to these risks therefore involves the concept of water stewardship, a process whereby companies work collaboratively with other partners to manage shared water resources. Water stewardship is therefore an important component to mitigating corporate water risk and facilitating business growth.
Since 2014, the NBI has run a number of workshops, seminars and events focused on water stewardship, with an emphasis on building understanding of water stewardship approaches and best practices. The NBI has also begun to actively work to facilitate new collective action projects on water in South Africa, as well as formed a partnership with the CEO Water Mandate to advance water stewardship practice across Southern Africa.