ACWR - African Centre for Water Research

Applied Research

An investigation into the water infrastructure development financial allocation pathways in municipalities

The Millennium Development Goals have established an international context within which South African macro socio-economic policies including RDP, GEAR and ASGISA have driven the rapid expansion of water and sanitation infrastructure over the past decade. Sectoral initiatives have been guided by the National Water and Sanitation White Paper, the National Water Strategy and the Strategic Framework for Water Services. National goals have been set within the water sector as well as in sectors where water is a key element such as health and education. These goals are all directed at themes such as poverty, employment and environmental sustainability. Financing the water infrastructure in the sector value chain that is needed for achieving these goals is increasingly a key issue.

Many role-players take financial decisions in the water services sector. Decision- makers are located in several national government departments, the water boards and local authorities. Likewise there are many sources of finance including national government allocations, loans from public and private sector institutions and the budgets of local governments. This complexity has meant that the financial and human capacity to deliver services varies considerably within the value chain. Because of the many institutions involved in all the processes, a complete picture of financing in the sector has not emerged. Past initiatives to describe the value chain have focussed on specific aspects and / or been cross-sectoral with consequential generalisations in respect of the water sector. These include routine decentralised budgeting, the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Framework and the feasibility studies undertaken to establish the financial viability of a national water resources infrastructure agency.

In a project commissioned by Water Research Commission (WRC), ACWR and its project partners undertake a comprehensive review of the decision making processes and financial allocation pathways in water infrastructure development. The outcome of the review will guide policy formulation in the water services and municipal sectors as well as assist decision-makers to be well informed in making financial decisions concerning matters such as financial grant allocations, tariffing, capital expenditure, operations and maintenance expenditure.

Social Scarcity of Water and Water Use

International frameworks, such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, define access to water as a basic human right and accord governments with the responsibility to ensure the realisation and protection of this right. The South African Constitution (Section 27.1.b) gives everyone the right to have sufficient access to water. The Constitutional imperatives are captured in the Municipal Systems Act (Act 32) of 2000, which stipulates that municipalities must ensure that all members of the local community have access to at least the minimum levels of basic municipal services. Despite the fact that access to adequate and affordable water services is fundamental to the achievement of developmental goals that underpin the South African Constitution, many of the country's poor communities lack access to water for their basic needs. Consequently, the standard of living, quality of life and livelihoods for these communities remain relatively low. While these trends indicate that social water scarcity has real implications for socio-political stability, the dynamics and relationships of the two variables are not clearly understood.

In the project funded by the Water Research Commission of South Africa, ACWR is tasked to undertake a comprehensive study aimed towards contributing to the knowledge and understandings on how water can be used to break the cycle of poverty in South Africa. Such knowledge and understandings are critical to the adoption of effective and innovative strategies for equitable water service provision and use.

The specific aims of the project are to:

  • Develop a thorough understanding of the dynamics between water scarcity and socio-political stability.
  • Develop a thorough understanding of the linkages between water scarcity vis a vis societal expectations/aspirations for water services.
  • Develop future scenarios around water scarcity in relation to the politics, economics and sociology of service delivery and development (highlighting micro community and household level aspects).
  • Link the scenarios to water services planning at municipal, provincial, national and regional levels.
  • Formulate of a research agenda on specific issues that would improve understanding and preparedness

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