In the midst of a drought gripping most of the Western Cape and further warnings that South Africa is bound to remain a water-scarce country in years to come, one water-management public entity has been quietly ensuring reliable water supply to Mpumalanga, Swaziland and Mozambique.
The Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency (IUCMA) is a water-resource management institution established under Schedule 3A as a public entity under the PFMA. It manages water resources at catchment level covering most of Mpumalanga.
“We manage a trans-boundary system that through the Usuthu systems flows towards Swaziland and through the Komati system flows to Mozambique while the Sabie/Sand flows through the Kruger National Park,” said executive manager for water resources management Dr Jennifer Molwantwa.
Molwantwa explained her organisation was “mandated to protect, conserve, enable use and development of the water resources in a sustainable manner”. She said, “as an implementing institution”, the department of water affairs sanitation had oversight over the work they do.
She emphasised they had a “skills-based governing board”, and consultation with stakeholders happened through “Catchment Management Forums”. She believes this is a pertinent strategy because in the last three years, the catchment resources they managed “faced a severe drought, the first of its kind”, but IUCMA was “able to keep our rivers flowing and meeting the ecological reserve, international obligation and other users”.
She termed this “co-management” with water users, with water usage monitored daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.
“We observe weather service projection, calculate how much water will flow, work out where it will be collected, encourage users to off-take during high flow while enduring ecological Reserve and International Obligation. Thus, we are constantly implementing Strategic Adaptive Management.
“We were able to manage in the crisis and not gazette restrictions as all water users were buying into the process. This is an integral part of CMA functions,” Molwantwa continued.
Besides monitoring and enforcement, the organisation offers education and awareness to ensure that all users are authorised and duly pay the water resource charges. When authorising water use, improvement of water quality and compliance to conditions of licences are strictly enforced.
She admitted that the organisation was yet “to succeed in better organising our HDI [historically disadvantaged] water users, particularly in the agriculture sector to ensure that there is transformation in the reallocation of the water resources”.
After receiving a clean audit, the IUCMA was “proposed” the Catchment Management Agency “to be used for the establishment of the single National Water Resource Management Agency”. Should this plan come to fruition, Molwantwa believes their model of “interaction with all users, governing board management of strategic risks, capacity and competency of staff and good governance practices” will remain their hallmark.
Operating out of the City of Mbombela, IUCMA works with stakeholders in the energy sector, “in particular Eskom”, which has its source of water in both Usuthu and Komati systems. There is a constant communication with neighbours Swaziland and Mozambique on “volume and quantity”.
They also cooperate with ‘Irrigation Boards’ that “have bulk allocation and collect on behalf of the DWS”.
Other stakeholders consulted are “water users such as agriculture (outside irrigation boards, HDIs including small-scale and emerging farmers), municipalities, water boards, forestry, industry and mining, the departments of agriculture and rural development as well as public works and health”.