Water quality is in decline on a global scale, as pressures upon limited water resources increase. Whilst not fully understood, the impact upon the economy is significant. The challenge is all too often that countries develop a regulatory framework against which water quality is managed, and then try to use increasing levels of regulation to enforce stricter conditions for water use authorisations. This has in fact not been effective, and it’s evident that we need innovative approaches.
The South African Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) recognised this challenge and the need to address the decline of water quality across the country. Eutrophication, salinization, alkalinisation and acidity, sedimentation and urban runoff are significant challenges for South Africa. In addition, there are a range of localised and “new” pollutants that require monitoring and research to understand how to best manage them.
Fundamentally, the Integrated Water Quality Management (IWQM) policy and strategy developed an integrated approach that recognises that water quality cannot be managed through command and control style regulatory approaches alone, but requires water and land use sectors to take responsibility for managing their impact upon water resources. Partnerships and cooperative government therefore become essential success factors in managing water quality. In addition, noting that there are limited resources and capacity, there was a need to support in developing a focused approach to implementation. Through a range of national and provincial stakeholder engagements, and along with the DWS, we developed a three-stage approach towards strengthening capacity and progressively improving the way that water quality is managed nationally.