This research set out to explore the dynamics of conflicts between two water user groups, the mining and the irrigation sector in the Olifants catchment area in South Africa. The research also sought to explore the role and place of water management institutions in managing water conflicts in the study area. The study adopted two theories–the theories of hydro hegemony and political ecology. These were used to explain the power differentials between the two major water users in the catchment area, and in understanding the potential for conflict. The study adopted a qualitative research design and used a review of the literature and relevant documents together with ethnographic case studies techniques to gather data.
Findings indicated that water conflicts exist between these water users. Inequitable sharing of water resources resulting from unequal power bases, where one water user has more power and influence to contribute to the catchment’s economic growth over another, is one of the challenges water users face. The study also revealed that the bulk of water resources are accessible by commercial farmers, which disadvantages emerging farmers in the catchment. The Department of Water and Sanitation has not fully implemented and achieved the objectives of the National Water Act, which aims to address the imbalances in water access caused by previous water laws.
The recognition of the 1956 Water Act as Existing Lawful Use under the National Water Act further exacerbates the emergence and escalation of conflicts between the two different irrigation-farming groups in the catchment. Poor water quality due to acid mine drainage from mining activities in the catchment has proven to be another source for potential conflict between the mining and the irrigation water user groups. The irrigation-farmers complain of poor water quality due to effluent from mining activities. The study concludes that conflicts observed were violent; some were dormant and irregular, and most conflicts were reported to have taken place during the drought of 2014 to 2016. The conflicts were very intense between irrigators (commercial and emerging farmers). Recommendations include fast tracking the implementation of water allocation reform and WMIs policies to ensure efficient and effective implementation of WMIs that will be able to address the issues of concern before they can escalate into serious conflict situations.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2018.