The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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This book gets to grips with the complexities of policy change in South Africa, asking how evolving doctrines and policies shape the way water use rights are conceptualised and governed. It offers an historical overview of the evolution of water resources policy and legislation, before going on to explore in-depth the process of formulating the Water Allocation Reform policy. This is then contrasted with an 'on-the-ground' case study that brings into relief the dynamics occurring at the policy level. The book offers a new perspective that emphasises the discursive construction of rights - how different principles are privileged in diverging discourses around scarcity, equity, efficiency and sustainability, and how such 'allocation discourses' are transformed at the local level by new processes of politics and power. The book sets these processes within the wider context of political and economic change in South Africa, and draws lessons for the broader experience of water policy and legislation in an international context. The book is aimed towards researchers, policymakers and practitioners and a broader international readership interested in water policy and development.

Open Access

Product information

Format : 235mm x 168mm (Soft Cover)
ISBN 10 : 978-07969-2353-0
ISBN 13 : 978-07969-2353-0
Publish Year : 2011

List of tables and figures
Acronyms and abbreviations

  1. Introduction
    Water, scarcity and governance
    Allocation discourses
    South Africa: Pioneering water allocation reform
    An overview of this book
  2. Water rights in context: Evolution and reform
    A tale of conquest
    The pre-colonial era
    The arrival of the Dutch and English
    Indirect rule
    Force and featherbed: The growth of mining and agriculture
    Deepening dispossession: The National Party's 'segregated development'
    A legacy of inequality
    The evolution of water rights regimes
    Roman-Dutch law comes to the Cape
    The British doctrine of riparian rights
    The capricious creation of colonial judicial policy
    The Water Act (No. 54 of 1956)
    A fledgling democracy: Crafting policies for change
    The nature of the negotiated settlement: Protecting property
    The resurgence of traditional authority
    A brief review of the political economy context
    Black economic empowerment and corporate interests
    Commercialisation, de-agrarianisation and the notion of 'two economies'
    Getting the Act together: Processes and drivers
    The geophysical backdrop
    The initiation of reform
    Focus on services
    Environmental concerns
    The National Water Act 1998: Key features and debates
    Recognised water uses, the Reserve and Resource-Directed Measures
    Water use categories
    Contested compensation: The 'safeguard clause'
  3. WAR in the making: Crafting the Water Allocation Reform Programme
    Water Allocation Reform: The basis and the process
    Through the lens of scarcity
    The pillars of reform: Registration and compulsory licensing
    The Water Authorisation and Resource Management System (WARMS)
    Compulsory licensing
    Processes, actors and perceptions
    The DWAF and the DFID
    The Expert Panel and other actors
    Consultation and participation
    Emerging perspectives
    The industrialist/institutionalist perspective
    The agriculturalist/livelihoods perspective
    Water Allocation Reform: On paper
    From WARP to WAR
    Policy narratives and the construction of social identities
    Existing lawful uses and historically disadvantaged individuals
    Efficiency and equity
    Links to land: The absence of attention to acquisition
    Narrowing down the 'room for manoeuvre'
  4. Water allocation in the Inkomati
    Context: Into the Inkomati
    Historical legacies shaping patterns of water use
    Settling the Transvaal
    Sweet dreams: The growth of sugar as a political force
    Creating the KaNgwane homeland
    Sharing waters: The 1992 Agreements and the forging of new boundaries
    Characteristics of the Inkomati Water Management Area
    Geography and water availability
    Water management structures
    DWAF regional office and local municipalities
    Provincial Department of Agriculture and Land Administration
    The Catchment Management Agency
    Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
    Patronage and paternalism
    Sugar in the Inkomati: A recipe for success?
    Emerging farmers
    Land access
    Gender relations
    Water control and capacity constraints
    Established farmers
    Perceptions of sharing and co-operation
    Emerging farmers' lack of leverage
    Contested allocations
    Scarcity and the blame game: Sugar versus non-sugar
    Domestic uses
    Dryland farmers
    Inter-departmental struggle for allocative authority
    Trumping intersectoral transfer
    'The little man against the State'
    Preparing for compulsory licensing
    Validation and verification of water use
    Uncertainty and dynamics
    The difficulty of determining water abstractions
    Messy legal contexts
  5. Conclusions
    Drawing it all together
    Emerging insights
    How discourses shape water rights
    Narrowing the frame of the problem: Naturalising scarcity
    Equity hinging on efficiency
    The separation of land and water: Parallel processes, detached dynamics
    The difficulty of determining use
    What of the future?
    The current status of WAR, and the emergence of new strategies
    Capacity constraints
    Challenges of regulation
    The politics of redistribution
    Wider Implications


Synne Movik currently holds a postdoctoral position in Global Environmental Governance at the Institute of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Prior to this, she worked on water and sanitation issues with the STEPS Centre at University of Sussex. She received a DPhil from the Institute of Development Studies, also at the University of Sussex, in 2008. The focus of her research was on water policy, water use rights, allocation and governance in South Africa, which provides the basis for the book.

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