JOHANNESBURG, A panel constituted of high level leaders from several countries around the world is meeting in South Africa to thrash out ways in which water use can be harnessed to aid efforts to save every valuable drop of the precious natural resource.

As host country of the United Nation’s Valuing Water Regional Consultation, South Africa called on the world leaders to make meaningful inputs into the draft document on Valuing Water Principles. It is envisioned that the final document will contribute majorly to the work of governments to save water.

South Africa has been chosen as the first country to host the High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) Regional Consultation to solicit views from all segments of the water stakeholder community and beyond, including agriculture, energy and other sectors, on how water can be better valued.

The consultations, which are also expected to take part in other regions in the world, will culminate in the presentation of a report on valuing water, which will be presented to the UN General Assembly in September this year. The members of the HLPW include Heads of State and Government from Australia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Jordan, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, South Africa and Tajikistan.

Speaking at the consultation on Tuesday in Boksburg, about 25 kilometres east of here, South African Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi said the consultations were a platform for government representatives and organizations to share national perspectives and positions on the critical issue of water.

Water, Muthambi said, is a cross-cutting matter as it speaks to all aspects of development and is linked to different policy positions and legislative imperatives that must be considered in decision-making.

It is my submission that we engage honestly, while raising awareness on the harmful impacts of illegal usage of water and violation of laws, regulations and legislations to ensure that no one is left behind in the decisions that will come out of this process, said Muthambi, who was addressing the meeting on behalf of Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

World Bank Special Advisor Patrick Vincent Verkooijen warned that the pressure on water was rising and that urgent action was required. The World Bank recently released a report titled “High and Dry”, which indicated that if left unchecked, water would become more scarce, polluted and much more unpredictable in the years to come.

The report warned that some regions would see their growth rate decline to 6.0 per cent by 2050 and the economic growth rate would decline by 60 per cent.

Water scarcity is a major threat to economic growth. However, the world has agreed on a different pathway. Led by South Africa in 2011 in Durban, the world agreed in 2015 and in 2017 to sustainable water development goals That’s the vision and that’s the aspiration,” said VerKooijen.

The world needs to transform the way it manages water. It requires political engagement at the level of Heads of States and Government, ministers of finance and planning, agriculture, energy, health and other parts of government, as well as key public-private and civil society stakeholders in order to galvanise action at the scale and speed required.”