"Businesses can play an important role in supporting municipalities and other water and sanitation service providers to improve water and sanitation infrastructure and management. However partnering is rarely a straightforward process and needs careful facilitation. The Water Futures Partnership Programme in South Africa is an example of how we can effectively bring together business and local government to help address shared water risks from inadequate wastewater treatment, with clear benefits for broader society" explains Phera Ramoeli, Senior Program Officer in the Water Division of the SADC Secretariat. "It is an example that needs to be emulated in the other countries and basins in the SADC region."
Background of WFP activities in South Africa
The South African Department of Water Affairs predicts water shortages in some parts of the country (Gauteng, Rustenburg, Ethekwini, Nelson Mandela, Polokwane, Cape Town and Lephalele) within the next ten years. This shortage is exacerbated by increasing competition for water resources from agricultural, domestic and industrial users.
South African Breweries Ltd (SAB Ltd), WWF South Africa and GIZ have come together to help tackle the issue of Water Scarcity in South Africa. The organizations share the common objective of developing strategic responses to future water risks faced by SAB Ltd, as well as other users. They also have the ambition of improving long-term water sustainability at local, national, and transboundary river-basin levels.
SAB Ltd, WWF and GIZ are working together to:
- Identify key water risks to SAB Ltd’s business and other water users in selected watersheds and localities
- Map out steps to mitigate the risks and ensure security of supply
- Mobilize additional stakeholders (including other companies) in water stewardship practice, and share the learning with others
To understand the water risks facing SAB Ltd’s business, the partnership based its work on SAB’s water footprint assessment – essentially an assessment of the amount of water consumed by different parts of the business’s production process. The water footprint showed that the net water footprint for SAB Ltd and its supply chain is 511,100 million litres. Over 95 percent of this water is used to cultivate crops, while the remaining 5% is used largely for brewing and production of soft drinks.
The water footprint assessment identified several potential water risks for SAB Ltd, two of which were prioritised for tackling through collective action:
- Addressing the risk of water scarcity to SAB Ltd’s agricultural supply chain: this will be done by ensuring water availability to hop farms located in the Gouritz water catchment, located in the Southern Cape, an action that will also benefit other water users in the catchment.
- Addressing risks relating to water quality at SAB Ltd’s brewery at Polokwane: this will be done by upgrading the municipal wastewater treatment works which the brewery currently uses. The sewage works is under pressure to treat the brewery’s effluent to expected standards and this presents a reputation risk to SAB Ltd as well as pollution risks to users downstream.
An assessment at the hops farms in the Gouritz water catchment identified the causes of water scarcity in the area as well as suitable remedies which are already being implemented. These include establishing a farmer-led water user initiative and a groundwater monitoring process – both of which will ensure that water is used more carefully in the catchment.
In Polokwane, SABLtd is working closely with the municipality to conduct specialist technical studies at the waste water treatment works with a view to rehabilitating the works to achieve “green drop” status. SAB is providing seed funding for the technical analysis of the works and capacity building, with a view to securing long term capital investment from the municipality for the infrastructure investment. Tackling this issue will have positive effects on the Sand River catchment, which is part of the transboundary Limpopo River basin.