The Water Research Commission (WRC) has been appointed by the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) as the implementing agent for the Framework Programme for Education and Training in Water (FETWater) Phase III programme that will run until 30 September 2017.

FETWater is a joint UNESCO, Belgian and South African knowledge transfer and capacity building programme linking learning resources and training capacity to integrated water resource management expertise in areas where they are needed most. The programme was formally launched by UNESCO in 2002, and has utilised networks as mechanisms to ensure collaboration and to address particular capacity needs in the South African water sector.

Having successfully completed its first two phases, FETWater has established seven networks:

  • Resource Directed Measures (RDM)
  • Groundwater Resource Directed Measures (GRDM)
  • Beneficial Use of Water (BUW)
  • Wetlands and Rivers (W & R)
  • Catchment Management Agencies (CMA) Expertise Development
  • Catchment Management Strategy (CMS) Development
  • Water-Related Disaster Management (WRDM)

Activities within these networks range from developing training materials and conducting training sessions; conducting capacity audits; and developing masters level programmes as well as short courses for the training needs of professionals. Additionally, specific attention was also placed on developing a groundwater manual and accompanying software for the management of the resource by governmental officials; and training on the implementation and protection of estuarine environmental water requirements.

Phase III

The new capacity building needs and requirements that will be considered in Phase III are the advancement of technologies in the water space; climate change and variability; strengthening of the water regulatory system and development of regulatory tools; local government capacity building using water as a catalyst for economic growth and development; developing stronger inter-governmental relations; specialised skills and knowledge to manage water taking into account the whole value chain and more importantly indivisibility of the hydrological cycle.

However, the most crucial directive of Phase III will be the National Water Resources Strategy 2 (NWRS 2). Addressing participants at the signing ceremony, Acting Director-General Trevor Balzer said that, “FETWater provides a practical expression of the NWRS 2, and to making an impact in terms of capacity into the sector, as well as on the ground.”

Also speaking at the signing ceremony, Dhesigen Naidoo, WRC CEO, indicated that, “The expectation is very high around Phase III, but it fits in well with where we are as a country. Capacity development in general and scientific training in particular is at another level of the game to where we were 10 years ago. In the science and technology space, the water sector actually performs extraordinarily well. We are currently 18th in the world with regards to knowledge production.”

“The WRC is very keen to take this science partnership to another level, and we’re very keen alongside that, to take the water debate to the next level, and the Category 1 Centre at Rhodes University and the Category 2 Centre at UKZN will help us achieve this progression,” said Naidoo.