Comment by the deputy director general in the water affairs department and the department's media liaison officer.
The knee-jerk comments by Carin Bosman and Tony Turton in "Waste is at the heart of water wrangle" (Business, September 20), leave us with two impressions: either they are being malicious or they chose to ignore the tenets that underpin the national water policy review.
The policy review should be read within the broader context of all other process, such as the recently gazetted National Water Resources Strategy 2, which covers most of the things referred to in the article — such as the prevention of pollution.
The strategy includes equity in access to water services and resources, and the benefits from its use through economic, social and environmental development and management.
It intends to achieve these objectives through the use of the water allocation reform programme and proposed mechanisms, which include water set aside specifically for redress, compulsory licensing, general authorisations, development support and partnerships to ensure that water is available to previously disadvantaged groups.
However, the policy review's mandate is to determine any unintended oversight and gaps in the current water policies and to provide amendments.
This policy review seeks to give full effect to the three fundamental principles of the National Water Act (efficiency, sustainability and equity) by plugging the gaps that have been identified through years of implementation of both the Act and the policy.
Crucial to the current setting is the shortage of water for basic human needs as guaranteed by the Constitution. Coupled with this is the need for ecological services to protect the environment.
If there are no provisions or water allocation laws for new developments then the economic growth plan is doomed.
The National Water Act allows, on a discretionary basis, the use-it-or-lose-it principle to be applied to the licensing of authorised water use.
The legislation does not contain a mandate for this to be applied to existing lawful water use.
There are a variety of mechanisms that can be used to support the application of the use-it-or-lose-it principle.
These include an appropriate drafted transitional mechanism and the use of more powerfully articulated declarations, validations and reallocation interventions as currently provided for in the National Water Act.
Purchasing water entitlements
"Emerging users" have to spend huge amounts of money on purchasing water entitlements instead of using the funds on establishing and expanding their operations.
The population can't expand into economic activity if state departments such as water affairs, rural development and agriculture, fisheries and forestry are to buy water entitlements for government programmes.
No reasonable South African can really argue for the perpetuation of scenarios such as these in the name of placing economic value on water.
Bosman's argument that the proposals contained in the review lack scientific principles or realities on the ground is erroneous.
In the event of a year-long drought we submit that there will be no water to take away anyway.
Second, the current processing of water-use applications takes scientific principles into account and most farmers understand that they will be consulted.
This is not going to be an irresponsible process of taking away entitlement without the due considerations stipulated in the National Water Act.
This policy review stands to benefit everyone by making provision for the fact that water is a basic need, serves ecological needs, and will be made available for economic activities without exorbitant payment for it.
Deborah Mochotlhi is the deputy director general in the water affairs department and Themba Khumalo is the department's media liaison officer.