Fresh water is essential for the daily life of all aquatic and terrestrial organisms, including humans. Water requires careful management and protection due to its vulnerability to over-exploitation and pollution, although it is normally a recyclable resource. This is particularly so in South Africa where we are water stressed, bordering on water scarce, with a water availability of only 1 100 m3.
Most fresh water resources in sub-Saharan Africa are located in transboundary watercourse systems and shared river basins that require a strong commitment to regional collaboration within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for its management. The environmental initiatives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development’s (NEPAD) framework provides a key initiative for improving water resource management for social, economic, and environment security in Africa.
Aquatic resources can suffer from the way in which land resources are used, and through direct water use, as well as through the impact of uncontrolled pollution from various sources. Water resources usage affects the functioning of estuaries and coastal waters. The prediction of climate change is to show alterations in the amount and distribution of rainfall as well as evaporation rates. Sustainable aquatic ecosystems rely on the availability of water of adequate quantity and quality. When assessing the water requirements of South Africa and its neighbouring territories, ecosystem requirements as well as water-user requirements need consideration.
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) is the custodian of the nation’s water resources, and the challenge is to manage these resources to promote equity, sustainability, and efficiency. The National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS) is an ambitious document that sets out the Department’s plans. The NWRS will be legally binding, amendable to suit changing circumstances after periodic reviews at least every five years.