Water and sanitation in South Africa is regulated by the acts and policies of the Department of Water and Sanitation. It receives a large percentage of the corporate social investment (CSI) spend on housing and living conditions. Interventions are informed by both national and internal research. This article provides an overview of the CS! research, policy framework, and relevant research and reports.
Trialogue’s research, published in the Business and Society Handbook 2022, found that 42% of CSI spend on housing and living conditions went towards water and sanitation. This has increased significantly, from an average of 6% in 2010. In 2021, water and sanitation made up 51% of CSI spend on housing and living conditions.
Research in 2020 found that 16% of CSI spend on housing and living conditions went towards water and sanitation with 27% devoted to building houses and 31% facilitating housing development – the greater priority in the sector. Housing and living conditions were funded by 12% of corporates and received an average of 1% of CSI expenditure in 2020.
Water and sanitation acts and policies
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) leads and regulates the water sector in South Africa. It is governed by the National Water Act (1998) – part of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), 107 of 1998 – as well as the Water Services Act (1997).
The 2018/19 Annual Report of the Department of Cooperative Governance indicates that:
- Nationally, percentage of households with access to tap water in their dwellings (off-site or on-site) increased by 4.6% between 2002 (84.4%) and 2018 (89%).
- Households with access to at least basic sanitation (VIP pit latrines) improved from 61.7% in 2002 to 83% in 2018.
- An average of 26 1818 households per reporting municipality received free basic water in 2017/2018.
- As per the Community Survey of 2016, 15 municipalities had below 50% of their households with access to piped water, and 10 of these were from the Eastern Cape.
- The current rate of delivery of reliable water services to households is well below the estimated required rate of 105 882 households per quarter. Some 560 385 households have been served since 2014.
National Water Act (36) of 1998
This Act ensures that water resources are protected and managed in a sustainable manner by the appropriate institutions. It promotes an integrated catchment-based approach to water resource management.
Guide to the National Water Act (36) of 1998
This user-friendly guide, aimed at both water users and those working in water resource management, describes the purpose and principles of the National Water Act, as well as the strategies and institutions proposed to achieve its goals.
Water Services Act 108 of 1997
This Act primarily ensures right of access to basic water supply and sanitation. Water service delivery is the responsibility of local government, as Water Services Authorities (WSAs). According to the Constitution (Act No. 107 of 1996) and the Water Services Act, water service delivery is a core responsibility for local government, whether as a water services authority or a water services provider.
Strategic Framework for Water Services (2003)
This comprehensive policy for water services sets goals for access to services, education and health, free basic services and institutional development and performance. It addresses the full spectrum of water supply and sanitation issues.
National Water Policy Review (2013)
Water policy positions are outlined in this review, along with indications of how to overcome the water challenges faced by DWS and South Africa, and how to improve access to water.
The National Water and Sanitation Masterplan 31 October 2018
The Department of Water and Sanitation’s plan to guide investment and planning in the water sector. This plan outlines nearly 100 immediate, short-term and long-term actions to stabilise the sector, protect water resources, and deliver access to safe water and sanitation to 2030 and beyond.
National Water Resource Strategy Second Edition (2013)
This document indicates how water supports development and reduces poverty and inequality, and how it should be used and managed more equitably and sustainably.
National Sanitation Policy Draft (2016)
Government needs to ensure that basic sanitation services are extended to every citizen, including unserved households and vulnerable people – and this policy draft emphasises the importance of this.
Sustainable Development Goal 6
This global goal ensures the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Goal 6 was reviewed in-depth at the high-level political forum of 2018.
Water Leaders: A new Model for Water Access
The World Economic Forum (WEF) gave the Global Agenda Council on Water the mandate to develop a new economic model for water access in June 2014. This paper reveals the results of that mandate.
Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure – Sanitation
The South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 – Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure stipulates the basic level of infrastructure that every school must meet in order to function properly.
South African water and sanitation research
South Africa’s 20-year journey in water and sanitation research
In 2014, the Water Research Commission produced this publication, which sets out the progress made in water and sanitation research over the past two decades, and the sector’s transition from apartheid to democracy.
Overview of the South Africa Water Sector
This 2000 induction manual provides a broad overview of the water situation and the water sector in South Africa, as well as the challenges faced by the sector.
Water & Sanitation Research Brief: Monitoring the Implementation of the Commission’s Recommendations from its 2014 Report on Access to Water and Sanitation
This 2018 report from the South African Human Rights Commission sets out to evaluate the implementation of the recommendations made in its 2014 Report, and provides a set of revised recommendations based on the findings.
To what extent does socioeconomic status still affect household access to water and sanitation services in South Africa?
This 2018 article identifies the socioeconomic factors that may affect poor water and sanitation services provision in South Africa, asserting that identifying them will provide policy direction and better-targeted water infrastructural development. Shortfalls in services are unevenly distributed across provinces and can be tracked by socioeconomic status.
Water: Facts and Futures – Rethinking South Africa’s Water Future
WWF-South Africa’s Freshwater programmes have been working in South African catchments for almost two decades. Their 2016 report on the current status and future of our water system looks at the facts behind the nation’s water and how to ensure a sustainable water future.
Report on the Right to Access Sufficient Water and Decent Sanitation in South Africa: 2014
This 2014 report on Water and Sanitation is based on the South African Human Rights Commission’s systematic and extensive work undertaken in fulfilment of its mandate on these rights since 2010. It concludes with recommendations on how to improve the state of access to water and sanitation in the country.
Our World in Data: Water Use and Stress
This report, published in 2015 and updated in 2018, identifies global fresh water use across various sectors and categories. It includes detailed data and graphs on freshwater use (global and regional), renewable freshwater resources, agricultural water withdrawals, irrigation, industrial water use, household water use, water stress and scarcity, and what determines how much water we use.
Reducing Water Consumption
The Struggle to be Ordinary
SERI, the South African Cities Network (SACN), the National Upgrading Support Programme and Constitution Hill launched a short documentary on sanitation for women with disabilities living in informal settlements. An open panel discussion followed the screening in August 2019.
Stats SA: General Household Survey 2019
Stats SA provides a snapshot of stats on delivery of water and sanitation and other household services based on the General Household Survey. This Survey shows that access to water has declined in five provinces between 2002 and 2019 but sanitation has improved.
International water and sanitation research
The United Nations World Water Development Report
These comprehensive annual reviews provide an overall picture of the state, use and management of the world’s freshwater resources. They aim to provide decision-makers with tools to formulate and implement sustainable water policies. Read the 2021 annual review.
Quality Unknown: The Invisible Water Crisis
The World Bank’s report on water quality indicates that water quality challenges are not unique to developing countries, and poor water quality threatens growth, harms public health and threatens food security.
Strategy for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 2016-2030
UNICEF’s report places water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) at the core of its mandate for children, since poor hygiene, open defecation and lack of access to safe water and sanitary systems are the leading causes of child mortality and morbidity.
WASH in Schools
The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene has expanded its global databases to include WASH in schools.
SDG 6 Public Dialogue Report
UN-Water prepared the first Sustainable Development Goal 6 Synthesis Report on Water and Sanitation in 2018. It reviews the current situation and trends regarding water and sanitation at global and regional levels.
Water, sanitation and hygiene and health: A primer for health professionals
This 2019 World Health Organization document guides health professionals who engage with WASH-related issues – it gives an overview of WASH interventions and the status of WASH services globally. It also outlines key linkages with health, and key actions that health actors can take to ensure WASH efforts protect public health.
Modeling sewage leakage to surrounding groundwater and stormwater drains
Underground sewage pipe systems deteriorate over time, resulting in cracks and joint defects. Sewage thus leaks out and contaminates the surrounding groundwater and the surface water in stormwater drains. Many studies have investigated the problem of sewage leakage, but the authors of this 2012 paper have examined the hydrologic interactions between leaky sewage pipes, groundwater and stormwater drains.
Detection of untreated sewage discharges to watercourses using machine learning
In the Journal Clean Water 11 March 2021 written by Peter Hammond, Michael Suttie, Vaughan T. Lewis, Ashley P. Smith and Andrew C. Singer speaks on how Artificial intelligence can detect unreported spills of raw sewerage in UK rivers. Scientists studied two wastewater treatment plants over 11 years and used machine learning to detect unreported ‘spill events’. This innovation will help protect the environment as well as humans using the rivers for recreation. It also assists with enforcement of water quality standards.