Regulation of the water sector (Continued)

Extract from the NWRS 2 by the Department of Water and Sanitation

We continue extracts from this essential document. Important to this section — research and innovation — is the role of the plumber who, unlike the researchers and scientists who perform an excellent function, needs to innovate at the coalface.

(If you missed the article in the May 2017 issue click here)

Research and innovation have been major contributors to being able to meet the ever-increasing demands for water in South Africa. The development of skills in the water sector and high-level knowledge about water continue to be priorities for rapid progress to be made in ensuring that all citizens of the country have safe and secure access to water of good quality.

Background and NWRS 1

The NWRS 1 acknowledged that research has been a fundamental contributor to understanding South Africa’s water resources and developing many of the techniques and tools, including enabling legislation, used for their management. It also confirmed the leadership role of the Water Research Commission in continuing to ensure that the strategic direction of water research in South Africa is attuned to the country’s needs, that water-related research and development in South Africa is adequately funded and coordinated, and that knowledge so generated is appropriately disseminated and applied.

Emphasis was placed on the desirability of close ties between the WRC and the sector leader, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWA), to ensure that the latter’s research needs are known, and between the WRC, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and the National Research Foundation (NRF), to ensure that approaches to water research are consistent with South Africa’s broad policy on science and innovation.

Research and innovation have been major contributors to being able to meet the ever-increasing demands for water in South Africa.

An apparent omission from the 2004 NWRS 1 is reference to the DWA’s roles and responsibilities regarding research and development, as envisaged by national science and technology policy. The DWA, as the sector leader, has the primary responsibility for liaison with the DST and for the drafting of a sector research and innovation (R&I) strategy that meets the needs of the sector and dovetails with the national research and development (R&D) policy and strategy.

Key issues requiring attention

While much progress has been made with regard to research since the promulgation of the Water Research Act, 1971 (Act No. 34 of 1971), the following key strategic issues still require attention:

  • Sustainable utilisation of groundwater resources;
  • Development of human research capacity;
  • Degradation of water quality and water ecosystems resulting from industrial and agricultural development, mining and rapid human settlements in peri-urban areas;
  • Increased health risks to humans and animals as a result of contamination of water by hazardous pollutants;
  • Uncertain impacts of climate change on the availability of water;
  • Insufficient provision of basic water supply and sanitation to some rural areas; and
  • Inequitable access to water for productive use.


The following objectives have been identified for addressing the issues outlined above:

  • Develop a critical mass for knowledge development and exchange. Use water research as a catalyst for developing high-level human resource capacity for the water sector.
  • To contribute to effective and efficient water management, solutions that respond to the needs for water security and sustainability for individuals, communities, productive use, strategic water use, and ecosystem services.
  • Ensure inclusive, coherent, and well-coordinated participation by all role players in water-related research and innovation.
  • Develop mechanisms to ensure that water information and water research outputs are beneficially applied in improved water management and for effectively dealing with other challenges facing the water sector.
  • Ensure that research and innovation in the water sector are adequately resourced and that resources are used efficiently and effectively.
  • Draw on and protect indigenous knowledge for research and innovation in the water sector.
  • Find innovative approaches for dealing with the high levels of complexity in the water sector, with a long-term and transformative thinking, for example, in the implementation of the Water Allocation Reform programme (WAR).
  • Provide knowledge and foresight on potential future challenges, especially those caused by climate change, likely to arise from population growth, energy consumption, changing economic conditions, and political changes.
  • Promote innovation and business development from the results of water research.
  • Promote greater inclusivity and better coordination and coherence within the current national water-centred R&I system, which has served the country well in the past.

High-level strategic actions

Develop a national plan

A National Water Research Plan that covers the entire innovation value chain will be developed. The plan should include a strategy that can articulate the priority research infrastructure areas of a national scale (capacity areas) to further develop the national research capacity and improve research outcomes over the next five to 10 years.

Improve utilisation of outputs

Develop mechanisms to ensure that water information and water research outputs are protected, accessible, and beneficially applied in improved water management and for effectively dealing with other challenges facing the water sector.

Clarify roles and mandates

Relationships and reporting lines between institutions that are involved in R&D within the sector will be clarified and improved to achieve the broader objectives of the NWRS 2.

National Water Resource Strategy 2 98

Editor’s comment

Not merely talking about altering the product to fit and such, but genuine innovation that makes installations easier and less hassle for the customer should be a focus area. The trouble is that we seldom, if ever, document our innovations. This section speaks at a high level, but when discussing the plumber’s role with the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Water and Sanitation, they are crying for documented innovations. The Water Research Commission has a successful Water Technologies Demonstration Programme (WADER), which is involved with innovation. Reading this featured section will encourage you to become part of the water scene and contribute meaningfully to the progress and fulfilment of this report. 

Click below to read the June 2017 issue of Plumbing Africa.

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