World Water Day – Water Affairs Scorecard

21 March 2012

Tomorrow is WWD2012 (World Water Day) – a day so important that I suggested it be considered as a public holiday, intensively devoted to water awareness.

Yesterday’s press carried a two-page set of articles on this important event and, based on my theme of attention to water quality as a strategic component of water availability, I decided to score the Department of Water Affairs based on the content of the articles published.  Here goes:

The headline article, entitled ‘The Future of Water: Thinking Ahead” , the Minister (Edna Molewa) makes several statements, many of which are nothing more than the standard ‘company line’.  Yet again she fails to depart from attention to quality, i.e. the ravages of pollution, and looks at use and cost of production (although this could be notionally-inferred as including quality issues, but in a reactive rather than preventative sense).

However, her otherwise bland statement ended very positively, with this:

Managing our water must become more effective. For this, it is critical that both water resource authorities, and users, [sic punctuation] understand the nature and importance of water and its supply and use.  Water is the career of the future.

The last sentence is probably the most important statement that I have seen any Minister of Water Affairs make in a long time.  Wow! The Department is sorely in need of properly-trained and experienced staff in the field of water resource management.  The country is sorely in need of fundamental career courses in aquatic sciences.  Only this week I again experienced the inane and ridiculous beliefs of senior DWA personnel – who manage to dangerously influence decision making and interventions at a level for which they have no qualifications whatsoever!  Lets hope the Minister gives effect the career statement sooner rather than later!

A second plus is the formation of the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), ostensibly formed to integrate business into findings solutions for the water crisis.  The SWPN is apparently to become a public-private industry advisory platform, so lets hope, very sincerely, that Minister Molewa selects people who know what they are talking about and not some “university of the internet” self-trained ignoramus.

Luckily the water quality issues did get some mention in an article on Water and Food Security, written by Gwen Watkins.  Herein she made the vital observation, namely that:

In South Africa, water quality deterioration, through pollution from agricultural, industrial and mining activities and because of poor urban wastewater management, is arguably the most serious threat to the country’s water resources.

Well done Gwen! (although a printing gremlin seems to have crept into the percentage values from the WWF6?).

So, how do I score this?  The scoring has to be based on promises, rather than proof of concept.  I am heartened by the Ministers statements but we need to see these followed up very soon by actions.  I would give her 6/10 at this point in time, but she still has more difficult tests to pass.  If she had included the statement made by Gwen, then 8/10 would have been entirely possible on this occasion!

Remember, Minister Edna, there are lots of people ready to help you make a difference!


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