Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba says R6 billion has been allocated towards drought relief and to augment public infrastructure investment.
The announcement comes as efforts are underway to declare three provinces, particularly Cape Town in the Western Province, as national disaster areas.
On Tuesday, the City of Cape Town announced that Day Zero – a day when taps will be closed – has been moved to July.
Tabling his Budget Speech on Wednesday, the Minister said severe drought conditions are affecting large parts of the country.
He said this was placing extreme strain on the supply of water to nearly 4 million people in the City of Cape Town.
“A provisional allocation of R6 billion has been set aside in 2018/19 for several purposes, including drought relief and to augment public infrastructure investment.
“Government is concerned by the potential job losses in vulnerable farming communities as a result of the drought.
“We are therefore exploring the option of partially mitigating losses by temporarily increasing intake in the Working for Water programme,” he said.
The Minister said the allocation for drought response funds for water infrastructure projects and EPWP will be made in the Adjustment Budget.
“To provide short term assistance, this budget includes disaster relief grants for provinces and municipalities worth R473 million in 2018/19.
“Other conditional grants can also be reprioritized to respond to disasters if necessary,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister said some smaller towns in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, including Nelson Mandela Bay and Western Cape are also facing water shortages.
He said South Africa rates among the highest levels of per capita daily domestic water consumption levels in the world, but also some of the highest levels of inequality in reliable access to water.
He said the national government will continue to work with municipalities to respond effectively to the water crisis.
“Government stands ready to provide financial assistance where necessary.
“South Africa is a water-scarce country, and our climate is changing in ways that make rainfall patterns far less predictable than in the past.
“We need to conserve water.”