Transforming Water Management in South Africa

Volume 2 of the series Global Issues in Water Policy pp 145-163


Catchment Management Agencies: A Case Study of Institutional Reform in South Africa

  • Eiman KararAffiliated withWater Research Commission Email author 
  • , Gugu MazibukoAffiliated withPegasys Strategy and Development
  • , Thomas Gyedu-AbabioAffiliated withSouth African National Parks
  • , Derek WestonAffiliated withPegasys Strategy and Development

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This chapter highlights the decentralisation of water resources management to a local level through the establishment of Catchment Management Agencies (CMA). The first 8 of 19 proposed CMAs have been established and a number of institutional challenges have been identified. Stakeholder participation in the establishment of CMAs has been largely successful, but the process of establishment has been too slow and further delayed by a review of the number of CMAs to be established. The Inkomati experience shows that a lack of coherent support from DWAF and building the credibility of the institution in the water management area have been major challenges. The fact that DWAF is the driver and initiator of CMA establishment placed huge strain on the already-limited human capacity that had to perform these tasks in addition to daily water resource management activities.

Although the decentralisation-based reforms for water management define a critical role for communities and users at large, the state must, and will continue to, play a fundamental role because of its responsibility for managing water as a public good and for ensuring redress, equitable allocation of water and equitable representation in decision-making. As a water-scarce country, the need to safeguard the sustainable provision of ecosystem goods and services and to protect the interests and welfare of all users, especially the poor, women and the disabled becomes critical.


Decentralisation Governance Public participation Catchment management agencies Institutional change Capacity building