The International Water Security Network team headed down to St Ives Conference Centre in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands on 19 March 2015 to co-host a water security and stewardship dialogue with stakeholders and land users in the Umgeni Catchment Area. The event was facilitated KWANALU, the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union and further supported by WWF, the International Water Security Network, UKZN and the uMngeni Ecological Infrastructure Partnership (UEIP).
The workshop, co-hosted and funded by the International Water Security Network, was attended by 30 participants from a range of agricultural sectors; the KwaZulu Natal Agricultural Association (KwaNalu), Potato SA, the Forestry Sector, the Dairy Industry and the South African Sugar Association. Each of these industries made a presentation related to water, water use and conservation in their sector and the efforts that have been made with regards to these practices.
The industry presentations revealed that considerable strides have been made in improving water-use efficiency in their operations, from re-evaluating the techniques of measuring to water conservation saving practices. The IWSN team observed from the dialogue and interactions that both the commercial forestry and agriculture sectors, particularly the sugar industry, are highly regulated in terms of water use, complying with multiple legislative frameworks. The team also observed the interactions between the different stakeholders and industries and noted that there were good relations amongst members of different industries and land use practices.
A visioning exercise was undertaken where participants were asked to write down the state they would like to see their water resources in, in 10 years time.
The majority of participants noted that they would like to see improvements in the quality of water and ensure that there is a continued supply of good-quality water in the future. It was noted by one participant that security of water supply was essential, as the National Water Act (1998) doesn’t currently give security of supply, which is needed for productive capacity.
Small round table discussions were held after lunch, where participants discussed water security risks in their particular contexts and industries. Industrial pollution, poor water quality from informal settlements, sedimentation and chemical runoff and the loss of productive capacity as a result of variable water quantity and quality were the major risks identified in the agricultural sector.
Whilst many industries have taken steps to reduce their own chemical runoff they noted being affected by upstream users and industries that are not as careful and conscientious as they are. They suggested that lobbying and peer pressure, together with a mutual respect for the resource and environment, might assist in approaching the upstream users.
It was concluded by the majority of participants that the key to ‘success’ in their various industries was effective sector leadership, technological improvement and innovation, improved collaboration with other sectors (municipalities, industry, communal areas) and, along sector supply chains, improved communication and education. A/Prof Bimo Nkhata identified three emerging research areas as a result of the dialogue:
- Improving our understanding of the nature of interactions between stakeholders.
- Identifying the incentives that can play a role in addressing water risk.
- Understanding the institutional arrangements and enabling environment for self-regulation.
A water security dialogue is being planned in collaboration with WWF Zambia for April 2015.