Decentralisation of water resource management : a comparative review of catchment management authorities in South Africa and Victoria, Australia

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

By the adoption of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), South Africa has significantly changed its water management regime and the institutions governing water in this country. These changes were first introduced by the National White Policy Paper on Water in South Africa in 1997 and subsequently the National Water Act in 1998. One of the key components of IWRM is the decentralisation of water management to a regional or catchment level and the introduction of public participation in the water management sector. With the enactment of the NWA South Africa incorporated IWRM in its legal system and a decade on, authorities are now turning to its implementation. The NWA introduces Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) in water management and gives them authority over water management at a catchment level. Initially there were nineteen (19) and this number has since been reduced to nine (9) due to a number of factors. South African authorities are now seeking ways in which they can effectively decentralise water to a catchment level, including delegating and assigning some of the functions currently held by the Minster to CMAs. Using Victoria, Australia as a comparative study, this study investigates how water management can best be decentralised to a catchment level; it starts off by investigating the theory of decentralisation and its pros and cons; then sets off to investigate water management has been decentralised in Australia from the national level, to state level and catchment level; it then investigates the role of Rural Water Authorities in Victoria and compares them to Catchment Management Agencies in South Africa. Finally the work highlights the water management regime and the various stakeholders in water management South Africa from a national level to a catchment level and the challenges facing South Africa in term of WRM; and then makes recommendations and a conclusion based on its research findings and the South African socio-economic and political context.