Rural water and sanitation services in KwaZulu-Natal : an investigation into addressing of backlogs in basic services.
The water sector in South Africa is in the delivery phase of its transformation process, with transformation having commenced in 1994. This transformation is not unlike developments in this sector in other developing countries. South Africa is facing huge backlogs in the provision of basic rural water and sanitation services (DWAF, 2002a, p.3), typical of the scenario facing international developing countries. The SA Government has committed itself to eliminate the basic water supply backlogs by 2008, and the basic sanitation backlogs by 2010 (DWAF, 2002b, p.ii). These targets are more ambitious than the international Millennium Development Goals of halving the world's population without adequate or safe drinking water, or access to basic sanitation by 2015 (WSSCC, 2002a, p.l). The research investigates whether the targets set by Government are achievable in the Province of Kwazulu-Natal (KZN). The South African targets were set ahead of the completion of the Water Services Development Plans or the planning required of the Water Services Authorities (WSAs) in KZN. Although some Municipalities, in their capacity as Water Services Authority, have completed their Water Services Development Plans, others are still in the process of doing so. The deficiency in the provision of basic water and sanitation services in KZN, has been ascertained in this investigation. Also ascertained are the costs and financial resources needed to address the backlogs in service provision and the constraints to delivery of the needed services. The research findings have shown that the backlog in basic water supply in KZN is approximately 3,66 million people, representing 38,2% of the KZN population, whilst the backlog in basic sanitation services is 4,94 million persons, representing some 51,4% of the KZN population. In a rural context only, these figures are appreciably higher. This investigation has shown that the targets set by Government to address rural backlogs in basic services in KZN are ambitious. In terms of planned programmes at Water Services Authority level, it will take an estimated average of 12 years to eliminate the basic water supply and sanitation backlog. The earliest and longest water supply delivery programme ranges from 5 years to 20 years, whilst that for sanitation delivery, ranges from 6 years to 33 years. These programmes far exceed Government's target dates. In terms of the research findings, the backlogs in basic water services in KwaZulu-Natal will require financial resources of R4,87 billion to totally eradicate all basic water backlogs. Similarly, to address the basic sanitation backlog has been estimated at R1,44 billion. It has been recommended in this report that with relatively little additional annual funding that it will be easier to achieve the government target of 2010 (DWAF, 2002b, p.ii) for sanitation delivery than it would for water supply. The planned level of sanitation service has been ascertained to be the VIP latrine in all cases, which does not require a water supply, and thus water and sanitation delivery programmes can be implemented separately. The investigation has revealed that there is sufficient grant funding available in South Africa to meet the planned basic water services delivery programmes of the WSAs, but their programmes exceed the target dates set by Government by many years. If the delivery programmes are accelerated to meet the Government's target dates, the current budget allocations of both DWAF and the Consolidated Municipal Infrastructure Programme (CMIP) are insufficient. In the short-term, the WSAs are not expected to have sourced donor funding to assist with their planned delivery programmes. Thus funding sources within South Africa will initially have to be relied upon.Whilst planned programmes have been developed for the alleviation of water services backlogs in KZN, it has been recommended in the report that they need to be monitored to ensure delivery of services in terms of these programmes. This monitoring and certification of the implementation of planned programmes are essential management tools, as the current planned programmes of the WSAs do not meet the Government's targets of 2008 and 2010 respectively for the elimination of the basic water and sanitation backlogs (DWAF, 2002b, .ii). Financial budgets have been cited as being a problem area by most, but a higher priority problem appears to be the lack of institutional capacity at WSA level to ensure sustainability of projects/schemes in the post-construction phase. Should the projects/schemes not be adequately operated or maintained, it could lead to the implemented projects/schemes becoming defunct, which would negate the national initiatives aimed at backlog alleviation. It is fortunate that legislation such as the Municipal Systems Act (Act N° 32 of 2000) enables Local Government to implement a range of public and private water service provider options that can assist with the needed institutional capacity building, and to also render operations and maintenance services on a contract basis. It is evident from this investigation that a number of major obstacles may delay the achievement of either the planned delivery programmes of the WSAs, or the even greater challenges to meet the Government's targets. The successful, sustainable implementation of these programmes will be dependent on both sufficient funding being available and on solving the lack of institutional capacity.