Water Management - South Africa

Water Management

Finding solutions together

Cooperation between the Netherlands and South Africa in the field of water is intensive. Strong relationships exist between South African counterparts and Dutch water boards, NGO’s, water companies, municipalities, knowledge institutes and businesses.

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The total contribution of the Netherlands for water projects in South Africa is currently around EUR 30 mln. In total these projects generate roughly EUR 90 mln. of investments in the water sector in South Africa. And that doesn’t even include the investments of the Dutch private sector. The coming years the Netherlands will maintain its focus on the water sector in South Africa with the aim to increase bilateral cooperation as well as doing business. Since 2013 South Africa and the Netherlands have entered a MoU to underline their strong cooperation in the water sector and to provide an overarching framework for further cooperation.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a market leader in integrated water management skills and innovative water technologies. Despite – or perhaps thanks to – being a relatively small deltaic region in Western Europe it has developed world class technologies supported by top-end knowledge institutions in the field of water. Bordering the sea, the Netherlands has reclaimed and defended land from the sea since its first steps as an independent nation over 450 years ago. This is a skill that goes hand-in-hand with water management, spatial planning, water supply and water quality. Three major rivers; The Rhine, The Meuse and The Schelde, fan out across the country before flowing into the North Sea. These rivers flow through the rest of Europe into the country and have forced the Netherlands  to come up with innovative and cost-effective solutions for river basin management, water treatment and water supply.


Currently, the Netherlands is home to the world’s ten best engineering firms in the water field, as well as to two companies that are world leaders in land reclamation, dredging and coastal construction. In water technology, innovative companies lead the way in the purification and re-use of water. A large network of smaller companies offers specialist and cost effective solutions. Skilled NGO’s operate worldwide in the field of water and sanitation and international cooperation. Research institutes, universities and (local) government maintain a high standard of knowledge and management. For more than 100 years, educational institutes in the Netherlands have been offering courses on different aspects of water management to international students, (local) government officials, companies and knowledge institutions.

South Africa

Given the uneven distribution and high seasonality of rainfall in most parts of South Africa, the availability of a reliable source of water has always been an absolute priority. Since 1994 the entire water sector has benefited from a policy and legislative overhaul that addressed the severe inequities of the past and aims to produce state-of-the-art water resources management.

The sector has demonstrated considerable achievement in providing infrastructure for disadvantaged and rural areas over the last decade; but many challenges remain. National budget allocations have been consistently increased and backlogs are being reduced, although concerns have been expressed over the sustainability of the municipal infrastructure being installed. The possibility of future growth and development will not only depend on the rapid roll out of infrastructure but especially on the sustainable delivery of the services that the infrastructure makes possible.

Some examples of the Cooperation are:

The ORIO program
This is a big infrastructure Development program implemented by the Dutch Enterprise Agency (RVO). In South Africa four ORIO project have been identified, of which three are in the Water (and Sanitation) sector. The program supports eThekwini municipality to offer sanitation facilities in informal settlements, helps uMgungundlovo to repair the ancient pipe scheme to reduce non revenue water losses and thus enable the municipality to deliver water to informal settlements. In eLundini the ORIO will provide off grid water solutions to remote villages. All ORIO projects are demand driven and initiated by the municipalities themselves. ORIO projects are long term commitments that include both an implementation as well as an Operation and Maintenance phase. Dutch funding in these phases is 35 %, whereas the municipalities provide 65 % of the budget. All ORIO projects together amount to a total budget of over 200 million Euro.

The King Fisher program is implemented by the Dutch Water Authorities and aims to support the South African Catchment Management Authorities in their various stages of implementation. The Dutch Water Authorities date back hundreds of years and are in fact the oldest democratic governance bodies in the Netherlands, charged with managing water in specific catchment areas. Kingfisher links specific Dutch Water Authorities to South African CMA’s based on similar challenges, like international boundaries in the catchment area of the presence of for instance a large horticulture sector.

The Centre of Expertise
“Water Unlocked” is the slogan of the Centre of Expertise which is implemented by the Dutch Water Company Vitens Evides International and is hosted by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in Pretoria. The Centre of Expertise identifies needs in the water and sanitation sector and links those to Dutch innovative solutions. Such solutions may vary from management games to waste water treatment and algae control.

The Embassy as facilitator

The role of the Embassy and Consulate General is to actively facilitate between the Dutch and South-African water sectors. Among other things they organize company missions to international water events, support projects, facilitate networking and actively support the Dutch water sector by identifying leads ad opportunities. Market studies about the water sector in South Africa are also availabe. Please as the economic department for more information.

To support the Dutch water sector the Embassy and the Consulate-General work closely with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), the implementing arm of the Dutch Ministry for the Economy, Agriculture and Innovation. RVO has a number of innovative financial instruments available. Some instruments that might be of specific interest to Dutch entrepreneurs in the South African water sector include: DRIVE public infrastructure development, Partners for Water and the Sustainable Water Fund. For more information about all available instruments please see the RVO’s website www.rvo.nl/english 

Integrated Water Management Industry Contacts

The Netherlands
Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) 

Ministry for Infrastructure and Environment 

Dutch Water Sector (DWS) 

Holland Trade 

South Africa
Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA) 

Water Research Commission (WRC) 

Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) 

The National Treasury 

Inkomati Catchment Management Agency