Our new water-watchdog
The IUCMA team (from left to right) Front: Thubelihle Mnisi, Yvonne Mtileni and Sakhile Nkosi. Back: Thabiso Nkosi, Tanganedzani Makhanthisa, Mduduzi Nkuna and Sibonangaye Mkhatshwa

Our new water-watchdog. Improper use of water is a problem that affects us all, whether it is water pollution or illegal water usage.

As a community we have to know how the government is addressing the problem to help solve the problems effectively. A Catchment Management Agency (CMA) is an agency of the Department of Water and Sanitation and is established to manage natural water resources.

The Head Office of the Inkomati- Usuthu Catchment Management Agency (IUCMA) is based in the City of Mbombela and started operating in 2005 while the Mkhondo/Usuthu office started local operations in March 2015 by taking over responsibility from the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Office of the Department of Water and Sanitation in March 2014.

The goal of the agency is to reduce the pollution in our natural water sources, ensuring sustainable water use. This is achieved by managing our country’s natural water resources and engaging with stakeholders to collaborate with them in the management of these resources. The stakeholders of this agency include municipalities, mines and industries, farmers and private users.

The agency has a total of 66 water quality monitoring points across the Usuthu/Mkhondo rivers and dams. Sampling is done on a monthly basis to measure the amount of chemicals or potential pollutants that end up in our water resources. The IUCMA personnel monitor the proper disposal of sewage water, ensuring that municipalities follow the correct procedures before releasing sewage water into natural water resources, resulting in water of appropriate quality being released into the water resources.

The chemicals that mines and industries discharge into natural water resources are also monitored. Under the Empowerment of the National Water Act, 36 of 1998, Sections 19 and 20, the IUCMA has the right to do inspections where necessary. They also have the right to notify guilty parties of any transgressions, as well as take them to court, suspend their water licences and prosecute them when necessary.

The IUCMA have already started various projects locally. Boreholes have been sunk, allowing them to easily monitor the quality of groundwater as well as making water available for domestic use. They have also conducted dam safety inspections and completed water resource modelling. The agency is in the process of verifying and validating water usage and insuring that water users have the correct authorization within the Mkhondo area.

The IUCMA strives to create a platform where they can work with the community to protect our natural water resources. As a starting point for this relationship to develop, they make monthly reports of their water samples available to the public. They also have forum meetings, which are open to the public, where they discuss relevant water issues with the attendees.

On 21 February 2017 the first meeting of this calendar year was held, with the next meeting scheduled for 9 May 2017. Interested persons can contact Mr Mkhatshwa at 061 337 2715 for more information regarding the next forum meeting. The backbone of the agency is Integrated Water Resources Management. This encompasses how our water resources have to be managed as well as the importance of managing land-based activities to protect our water resources.

This ensures that the water remain fit for use by all users, including the aquatic ecosystem and our neighbouring countries which are Mozambique and Swaziland because the rivers in this area flow across the border into these countries. The public is encouraged to report all situations which might indicate illegal water use or lead to pollution to the agency. The head office in Nelspruit can be contacted at 013 753 9000, or info@ iumca.co.za. The Mkhondo office is located at 32A Joubert Street and open to the public. Readers who want more information regarding this agency can visit their website at www.iucma.co.za.