JOHANNESBURG, South African Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has called on the private sector to partner with government to invest in the water sector to help address challenges experienced in the provision of water and sanitation services.

She made the call during the Water Infrastructure Investment Summit (WIIS) held at the Sandton Convention Centre here Tuesday. The summit was convened by the department, in partnership with the Water Research Commission (WRC), to develop a programme of action aimed at shifting the water and sanitation sector investment landscape to one which is open and enabling for investment and inclusive growth opportunities.

Mokonyane said radical socio-economic transformation entailed, among others, the introduction of new models and mechanism of working relationships that will enhance service delivery.

This means that we have to look at new ways for an integrated water resource management. Efforts to manage, protect and preserve water as a critical resource in a sustainable manner speaks to the collective responsibility of all the stakeholders in the water sector," she added.

Water security and management are vital components of social and economic development in South Africa. Putting in place appropriate internal measures will enable a significant benefit in realising external opportunities to save water and use it more efficiently."

She said it was imperative for the country to think innovatively about new ways of making water available outside the traditional engineering solutions of supply-side infrastructure development.

Mokonyane emphasised the importance of applying proper economic impact analysis to appreciate how increasing investments in the nation's water infrastructure can have a positive impact on both economic growth and employment.

Moreover, we will have to review the projected capital needs of water, wastewater and storm-water utilities, and be able to estimate the associated economic benefits that would be realised if we were to make those investments," she said.

These benefits include the economic opportunities created by water infrastructure projects, the long-term productivity savings to the customers of water utilities, as well as the avoided costs of frequent disruptions in water and wastewater services to business."

She assured stakeholders that there is no change in policy, but the department aims to empower the current water and sanitation policy environment, with a new partnership between the public sector, private sector and civil society to build a strong, powerful and effective team.

The government is seeking a new partnership with the business and investment sector to ensure water security in South Africa in a manner which ensures access to safe water and sanitation universally and in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We have to refurbish the current networks, simultaneously modernising them with such interventions as real-time monitoring with distribution sensor networks converting the water and sanitation networks into intelligent systems. We need to deal with our infrastructure backlog innovatively, taking advantage of the new solutions and innovations coming out of research and development, the Minister said.