Stewardship is about taking care of something we do not own, such as the natural shared resource of water. Therefore, good water stewards understand their own water use, catchment context and shared risk in terms of water governance, water balance, water quality and important water-related areas – and then engage in meaningful individual and collective actions that benefit people and nature.
In South Africa, there are pressing reasons to take an active role in water stewardship. The country has a highly variable climate where droughts and floods are common risks and climate change predictions point to even more extreme weather events in the future. Our land uses and their various impacts also result in increased water quality risks. Lastly, South Africa has few feasible dam sites and an alarming 98% of all our harnessed water is already allocated.
Following a 2013 WWF-SA water stewardship project in the Western Cape’s Breede River catchment, a few fruit farmers voluntarily worked with WWF – together with food retailers Marks & Spencer and Woolworths – to reduce water risk across their supply chains and within their businesses. To guide them, they used an international water stewardship standard, as created by the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS).
Realising that this was quite complex, WWF-SA developed a localised self-assessment web tool – WWF’s Water Stewardship Guide – to help water users consider and address important points along their water stewardship journey. Intended for both commercial businesses and small-scale farmers who wish to improve their water usage and reduce their catchment level impacts, it provides local and sector-specific information as well as pragmatic actions and tips to address each of the best practice criteria within the AWS standard.
- Marks & Spencer
- Nedbank Green Trust
- Danish Embassy
- Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency
- Dusi uMgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT)
- Living Lands
- Stellenbosch River Collaborative (SRC)
- Natural Infrastructure Services (NIS)
- Emerging Leaders
Much like a business’ water stewardship journey starts with small actions, the water stewardship web tool is a first step towards interpreting an international standard for local water users. We hope it ignites conversation, and positive action, around the shared use of our most precious resource!