Risk Governance in the South African Water Sector

  • Cutting edge, collaborative research for the Water Research Commission, investigating risk governance practices in the South African water sector.
  • Production of case studies showcasing examples of best practice risk management and governance and how it adds value.
  • Production of a risk governance implementation guide for water utility risk managers to improve their risk governance capabilities.

Water utilities have wide and varied responsibilities requiring them to manage a complex set of risks. Though managing risks is an integral part of water utility operations and governance, a formalised capability in risk management has emerged as one of the critical competencies in delivering safe, reliable and cost effective water and sanitation services.

Most water utilities have some operational risk management capability, systems and processes. Risk governance however is more than just management of risk, as it incorporates people, cultural and organisational aspects of risk management. The true value of risk governance is when it is integrated into other business functions and provides value; such as customer or shareholder trust, improved operational performance, technological innovation, infrastructure resilience, better emergency preparedness, access to finance, better use of funds and scarce resources, exploiting opportunities, promoting continuous improvement and fostering greater employee engagement.

In collaboration with the University of Cape Town we are developing a risk maturity assessment tool, which combines qualitative and quantitative elements, and using the tool to interview participants.

We are investigating how a wide range of stakeholders in the South African water sector undertake risk management and governance activities. The primary stakeholders are water service authorities in South Africa, municipalities and water boards situated across the country. We are interviewing some private firms that have water service responsibility, such as mines and the Department of Water and Sanitation, which is the national department responsible for water in South Africa.

Findings from the assessments provide us with an understanding of the range of risk governance maturity levels. More importantly the study explores how risk management and governance activities are integrated into wider municipality or business functions, inform strategic decision making and where such integration adds true value.

The final report is due in July 2016.


  • A photograph with a water tap in the foreground, water is running into the outstretched hands of a child.Open gallery

    Research into the risk management and goveranace capabilities of stakeholders will inform strategic decision making.