Local governments central to taking forward the multiple use services approach in South Africa

Local governments central to taking forward the multiple use services approach in South Africa

TitleLocal governments central to taking forward the multiple use services approach in South Africa
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2006

A recent meeting in South Africa concluded that local governments have a central role to play to take the multiple use services approach forward. Various initiatives are undertaken to support local authorities in this task.

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The multiple use services approach has been gaining recognition in South Africa over the last few years, expressed in a range of policy, research, implementation and advocacy initiatives. In 2005 a national seminar was held on the theme. One of the concerns raised was that local government is the key to implementation, but they had so far been rather absent from the discussions. In a follow-up to the 2005 seminar, a second seminar was convened by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) and the MUS (Multiple Use Systems) project in partnership with WIN-SA (the Water Information Network of South Africa) and SALGA (the South African Local Government Association) on 25 October 2006. The objective of the seminar was to look at the implications for local government implementation of the mus approach. This focused on the guidelines for local government implementation of multiple use water services that DWAF is developing. Participants came from a cross-section of institutions: national government departments, provincial DWAF offices, local government, research institutions, NGOs and consultancies.

The importance of mus to realising goals of addressing poverty through water was emphasised. However, there are still no coherent, agreed upon, national definitions of multiple uses of water, that give clarity while leaving room for flexibility. It is agreed that livelihoods and Local Economic Development (LED) are at the heart of mus, and that the boundaries of that cannot be tightly set. Definitions can become an academic discussion, but are important as they have implications for mandates and for accounting and funding. Mapping of the different funding streams need to be combined to implement mus. This is complicated, as the agencies who administer them operate at different levels and with different procedures. Integrated Development Plans (IDPs), in theory, provide a mechanism for alignment between various agencies and plans, but in practice IDP processes are sometimes weak. IDPs could be the basis for assessing demand and needs for mus, considering supply issues, and enabling cooperative governance. Combining piped water supply with alternative water sources, especially rainwater harvesting, seems to provide the most practical way forward in the South African context. The lack of capacity at municipal level and how this may limit the implementation of mus which is a new and more demanding approach was raised as a concern. On the other hand, the integrated approach required for mus may also be an opportunity to achieve more impact and reduce poverty.

A range of activities were proposed including strengthened communication and advocacy and continuing the work on the guidelines for local government, especially in the area of financing mechanisms. This should be accompanied by the piloting multiple use initiatives in the context of municipal service delivery plans.