South African Journal of Science
Print version ISSN 0038-2353
Fundamental reform of water law, introduced to South Africa through the enactment of the National Water Act of 1998, has major implications for monitoring water resources and information management. Previously, water resources management was highly centralized and largely supply driven. The new legislation is intended to promote equity, sustainability and economic efficiency, partly through devolved management. Monitoring, previously intended to support the development and operation of the national water infrastructure, now focuses on compliance with resource quality objectives, management targets and water use licence conditions at national, regional (catchment) and local levels. A new phase of management practice is envisaged in which water resource monitoring will require much greater attention to the interaction between the status of water resources, the effects of human activities and the response of management to the results of the monitoring process. Such integrated monitoring will need to cover the traditional fields of surface and groundwater quantity and quality, but will also include an increasing focus on the air and land phases of the hydrological cycle and the various human impacts. These new initiatives will require fresh approaches to appropriate governance for the crosscutting management of information. The Act provides for greater coordination, and various models to achieve this are emerging at local and regional level. Various partnerships and an action-learning approach are seen as essential elements of integrating different disciplines, institutions and business processes.