SAWC logo27 November 2017

The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) today launched a report which exposes the dysfunction and institutional paralysis in the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). The report is almost entirely based on publicly accessible information including Parliamentary Questions and Answers, Portfolio Committee meeting reports, information from access to information (PAIA) requests and media articles. However, importantly, it presents it in a single document which paints a particularly bleak picture for SA’s water institutions and hence water security.

The report reveals deeply concerning institutional and governance challenges in the DWS. It lays bare a situation of institutional paralysis within the department and associated deterioration in financial management, service delivery, policy coherence and performance. In brief, the central challenges facing the department, outlined in the report, relate to the following:

o Considerable human resource and organisational challenges including the suspension of senior managers, high staff turnover and vacancy rates and intensified capacity constraints;

o Serious financial mismanagement related to over-expenditure, accruals and failure to pay contractors and corresponding escalation of debt, overdraft of the Water Trading Entity and debt owed to the Reserve Bank, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, poor revenue collection and corruption allegations;

o Considerable policy and legislative uncertainty related to inter alia the proposed Water Master Plan, proposed Water and Sanitation Bill and the proposed National Water Resources and Services and Sanitation Strategy;

o Highly worrying steps to undermine or destroy established water institutions, including plans to consolidate nine catchment management agencies into a single national agency and plans to discontinue key statutory bodies like the Water Tribunal and Water Boards;

o Failure to publish Blue Drop (water quality) and Green Drop (waste water treatment) reports since 2013. The Blue Drop-Green Drop reports are arguably the only comprehensive assessments available to the public and water service authorities on whether water and wastewater treatment plants are functioning and complying with water quality standards. The absence of such assessments has considerable implications for management, operation, risk mitigation, remedial action and refurbishment plans related to treatment plants - and hence water safety and water quality;

o Deterioration in wastewater treatment works and infrastructure due to lack of maintenance and investment, with initial findings of the 2014 Green Drop report indicating that 212 waste water treatment plants fall within a “Critical Risk” categorisation. These plants pose serious risks of completely untreated sewage entering rivers, streams and dams. This has dire impacts on water quality and human health including enhancing the spread of diseases such as e-coli, hepatitis A and diarrhoea;

o Significant deficiencies in compliance monitoring and enforcement. Notably, DWS only has 35 compliance and enforcement officials for the whole country, and has never published a specific water compliance and enforcement report. The 2016/17 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement report highlights that DWS has completely failed to undertake meaningful enforcement action against offenders. In 2017/2017, of 321 facilities inspected, 76 of which were found to require enforcement action, DWS has had zero (0) convictions for criminal offences. Despite widespread non-compliance, DWS has only suspended one water use licence since 1 January 2008.

The SAWC intends presenting the report to the Portfolio Committee on Water & Sanitation this week. The report can be downloaded here.

The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) is network of more than 20 community-based organisations, non-government organisations and trade-unions active in promoting the wise, equitable and just use, protection and provision of water. It was formed in the lead up to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. At its most recent Biennial General Meeting (BGM), SAWC urgently convened a task team to respond to the state of the water sector in general and the institutional and governance challenges in DWS in particular. In response, the task team seeks to build a broader coalition of support to respond to these challenges, engage with decision-makers and portfolio committee members, raise awareness of the state of the water sector and water institutions and, if necessary, institute legal action.


As a first step, SAWC recently addressed a letter to the Minister to strongly object to the decision to consolidate the established and planned CMAs into a single national agency. The letter highlighted that this decision “would fly in face of existing national water policy that provide for the decentralisation of and public participation in water governance” and hence called for the Minister to “keep the nine CMAs intact”. SAWC has received no response to this call.


For comment on the State of the Department of Water and Sanitation report, please contact:

  •   Samson Mokoena, Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 016 933 9079 / 084 291 8510

  •   Mariette Liefferink, Federation for a Sustainable Environment, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or ) 011 465 6910 / 073 231 4893

  •   Thabo Lusithi, Environmental Monitoring Group, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 021 448 2881

  •   Saul Roux, Centre for Environmental Rights, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 021 447 1647 / 082 777 9904

  •   Bryan Ashe, KZN Water Caucus, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 031 261 6524 / 082 652 1533

  •   December Ndhlovu, Environmental Monitoring Group, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 082 601 3664

Quiz your Councillor SThe local government elections have come and gone.

Your municipal or metro council has the serious task of managing service provision

How well they pay attention to the environmental justice issues that affect you and your community will depend, in part, on your active participation as a citizen.

What is the role of local authorities
when it comes to decisions that impact on your environment?

false solutions cover"Energy for Sustainable Development - How false solutions to climate change undermine equity, energy security and poverty reduction" (3.7MB)

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has just published this new report highlighting the dangers of responding to climate change with "false solutions". The report is a collaborative effort with input from a range of individuals and organisations from Africa, latin America and Asia, including EMG.

Living Land - AvontuurEMG's work with small-scale rooibos farmers in the Northern Cape has been highlighted in a chapter of a new book "Living Land" co-published by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Tudor Rose for the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification (2010-2020).

Vulnerability to land degradation on a global scale is driven by a combination of a changing climate and patterns of land use. Addressing climate change requires co-operation at a global scale. Ensuring appropriate land use requires local action.

According to the UNCCD, the new book is a powerful outreach tool for sensitizing the public about land degradation problems and the mobilizing efforts that are taking place around the world.

You can access the digital version of "Living Land" via this link to the publisher's website.

Squeaking in just before the end of 2015, our Annual Report for 2014 (1.1MB).
We promise to get next year's report published sooner!  Watch this space.


(This is no ordinary ticket office. Its where you get
tickets for Goedverwacht's annual Snoek en Patat Fees,
an event not to be missed!)


!!! Hot off the press !!!

Participatory Adaptation Handbook : A practitioner's guide for facilitating people centred adaptation to climate change

EMG is part of the consortium responsible for planning, writing and launching this fantastic resource for anyone involved in community-based adaptation work. Download the Participatory Adaptation Handbook here (3.1MB PDF) or contact us for a hard-copy (R100).

Accompanying the book is a set of facilitation cards Experiental Learning for Adaptation (945KB) - an amazing resource for anyone wanting to facilitate a community group.

At the Adaptation Network's last AGM, EMG was elected to host the network. We have also been awarded a grant from the Government of Flanders to make this possible. Exciting things are in the pipeline. Join the Network NOW!!

We're happy to launch an isiXhosa version of our popular basic guide to climate change. We believe it is the only document of its kind, so please copy and share it freely. Download here (430KB). Thanks go to Mpumi Mlalusi and the late Zukiswa Hani.

English and Afrikaans versions are also downloadable.