The Forum will afford key stakeholders the opportunity to address water resource related issues within the mineral-rich Western Limb of the Bushveld Igneous Complex, a region dominated by platinum and the platinum group metals, which has resulted in intense mining activity in the region.
Water is an enabling factor in mining, tourism, agriculture and conservation by virtue of it being both a source and sink. It is a source of a vital raw material that is fundamental to the above-mentioned economic processes; and it is a sink because many of our effluent streams resulting from economic development find their way into rivers and aquifers.
It has to be understood that if there is insufficient quantity of water (assurance of supply) or water of poor quality, it is a constraining factor and poses an existential threat to the interests of e.g. communities, the ecology, mining, industry, agriculture, conservation and tourism.
There is a need to understand the carrying capacity of the water resources in the region and to improve on the solutions of equitable water use.
There is a clear potential for conflict between the limited available water resources in the area and a need for these resources by competing interest groups, namely:
1. Water for people*
2. Water for irrigation
3. Water for livestock
4. Water for tourism
5. Water for the environment (fauna, flora and aquatic biota)
6. Water for mining
*( In combination, the Water Services Act and the National Water Act were designed to achieve the following:
[...] redress the inequalities of racial and gender discrimination of the past; link water management to economic development and poverty eradication; and ensure the preservation of the ecological resource base for future generations.
Challenges remain however, and many communities within the greater Pilanesberg walk long distances to obtain water.
If left unmanaged, the current struggle over constitutional rights – exemplified by the struggle of citizens’ constitutional rights to have equal access to water – represents a real potential for conflict.
The National Water Resource Strategy-2 found that around 98% of the total water resource available at a high assurance of supply had been allocated to economic activities, and that many Water Management Areas (WMA’s) were over-allocated by as much as 120%.
The Reconciliation of the Requirements for and Availability of Water for the Year 2025 in terms of the Base Scenario of the National Water Resource Strategy found that in 2025 all four international river basins will transition into Absolute Water Scarcity, with the Limpopo being a staggering 2.5 times above the global norm for social cohesion. This suggests that all of our transboundary river basins will become the focal point of future hydropolitical risk and vulnerability, with particular reference to the Limpopo, which is likely to be the epicentre of sub-national economic and job stagnation and thus potential social decay. These data ignore the impact of global climate change, with scientific consensus that southern Africa will become mostly hotter and drier.
Furthermore, the flooding of the Central-, Eastern and Western Basin within the Witwatersrand Goldfields with acid mine water has been declared an emergency by the Minister of Water Affairs. If acid mine drainage (AMD) is not treated to a level where the salt load is removed, the Upper Vaal will go into deficit and if there is a drought, long overdue, either:
1) Restrictions will be placed on consumers in the Upper Vaal; or
2) The dilution standard at Vaal Barrage will be relaxed resulting in very poor quality water reaching the consumers in the Middle and Lower Vaal (KOSH area, Free State Goldmines and all the mining activity in the Northern Cape on the Vaal Gamagara Scheme)
With the Upper Vaal in deficit there would then be no possibility of transferring water into the Olifants catchment (currently possible through the VRESS) and mining activities in 6 provinces could be affected if water consumption is curtailed.
The above-mentioned Forum has been revived in order to address the aforesaid challenges and to find a way forward.