We need to plan for water security

By: Deon Nel – head of the biodiversity unit of WWF South Africa.

With Human Rights Day fresh in our minds, it is appropriate to reflect on the words of the late Kader Asmal, an unrelenting defender of human rights and a former minister of water affairs. Speaking as the patron of WWF South Africa’s Water Balance Programme, Asmal observed that “water runs through our every aspiration as a society”.

The World Economic Forum ranked a “water supply crisis” as the second most important global risk in its Global Risks 2012 report. Photograph: Mahesh Kumar A/AP

Water affects everything we do, both positive and negative. From a governance point of view, this complicates things. To illustrate, some of the most important strategic decisions affecting water – for instance, mining, agriculture, urban planning and energy – are not led by the Department of Water Affairs, which merely plays an administrative role of issuing water licences, often after the fact. Added to this, the minister of mineral resources is currently asking the Constitutional Court to further exempt mining from the normal planning processes that apply to all other forms of economic development.

This would be problematic. However, when we consider the dire water situation, it reaches a critical scale.

The nascent National Planning Commission (NPC) provides a unique opportunity to deal with such a highly integrative and complex issue at its appropriate national strategic level. The first report produced by the NPC, the national diagnostic report, recognised the fundamental role of water. Continue reading

Shortage of water is a business growth risk

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 04 April 2011

According to a new study by WWF and German development bank DEG, the shortage of freshwater is not only becoming more and more of an ecological risk, but it also is rapidly becoming a major business growth risk – one that investors need to take into account.

Access to sufficient water of adequate quality is of considerable economic significance.

Assessing Water Risk: A Practical Approach for Financial Institutions, states that climate change, population growth and increasing living standards are contributing to the rising pressure on existing and already scarce water resources, particularly in developing countries. In Southeast Asia and Africa, for example, water shortages constitute a threat to entire ecosystems and to the living standards of the population.

“The availability of water also is becoming a development bottleneck for companies. With the water risk filter we have now developed a new tool to identify such risks to companies and to offer support in water management,” said Dr Peter Thimme, head of DEG’s department for Sustainable Development/Environment.

Access to a sufficient quantity of water of adequate quality, he added, is therefore of considerable economic significance.

“Our intention is to provide the conscientious investor with the knowledge to work with clients toward more sustainable water management, with the aim of mitigating both business and environmental risks,” according to the study. Continue reading