“We are gathered here today at this mayoral dialogue, which is the first of its kind in South Africa, to promote co-operation and share learning at all levels of government, in order to show commitment to waste management and water conservation,” said Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi on Tuesday 06 August 2013, when she led a round table discussion with mayors and municipal managers on water conservation issues at Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park, Gauteng.

The mayors’ dialogue is a fulfillment of the commitment made by the Deputy Minister during her Budget Vote address at the National Council of Provinces earlier this year to meet with local government to discuss water and waste management issues. During the roundtable, a pledge was signed by the Deputy Minister and mayors in attendance, declaring their commitment to water conservation and demand management (WCWDM). In recognition of Women’s Month, the pledge also included a commitment to working towards women and youth participation in water and environmental programmes.

“As a country we remain one of the thirty driest in the world, with a large part of the west getting drier with time,” said Mabudafhasi, adding that the challenge of water loss, as well as the availability of resources both human and capital in ensuring universal access to water in South Africa.

The challenge of water loss specifically, said Mabudafhasi, was well articulated through the Non-Revenue Water Study by the Water Research Commission, which found the country loses 37% of its water through this Non-Revenue Water. “We are aware now that Non-Revenue Water is a product of many factors and these include poor planning, limited financial resources to implement the necessary programmes, poor infrastructure, asset maintenance and lack of capacity and water leaks. The water sector can and must be creative and innovative in tackling these challenges.

The dialogue, which included focused group discussions, provided overviews of water conservation in South Africa; local government’s strategy with regards to water; as well as perspectives on water conservation in the country.

Mabudafhasi concluded by discussing the signing of the pledge by mayors declaring themselves ambassadors of water conservation, amongst others. “Let us do so with full consciousness and understanding that we shall be binding and committing ourselves to another level of service delivery to South Africans across all strata. Let us do this with a common determination to ensure that we keep our word and be respectful servants.”