Unpacking groundwater governance through the lens of a trialogue: A southern African case study

Publication Year:

Large portions of Southern Africa are arid or semi-arid, with most of the region having natural precipitation way below the global norm of 860mm/a. Groundwater resources are extremely important under these conditions, because a disproportionally large number of the very poor are totally reliant on this for the maintenance of basic livelihood flows. These resources are under risk from both anthropogenic and natural threats. Three basic threats are of particular importance – over-utilization, pollution resulting from the mismanagement of aquifers, and reduced recharge as a result of global climate change. This opens up the debate on how best to govern groundwater in semi-arid areas where there is a high reliance on the resource, specifically in the context of a developing country that has thernneed to sustain rural livelihoods as a core element of social stability. This paper consequently focuses on the governance issues arising from anthropogenic impacts only, because the sheer magnitude of the global climate change scenario is beyond the scope of such endeavours. The situation in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region will be presented as a strategic background, because it illustrates these issues very well. Large areas of SADC occur in semi-arid locations, with many of the major aquifer systems being transboundary in nature. Work currently underway within the Natural Resource and Environment (NRE) group at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is developing a water resource governance model that is based on what is being called a Trialogue – an active dialogue between three distinct parties. This recognizes three core Actor-Clusters (Government, Science and Society) and focuses research on the interfaces between these entities. This paper presents core elements of the Trialogue Model, and then applies these to the Pomfret-Vergelegen Dolomitic Aquifer, which is a transboundary water resource shared by South Africa and Botswana.

Conference name:
International Symposium on Groundwater Sustainability
Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences and Inter-academy Panel on International Issues, 24-27 January 2006, Alicant, Spain
University of Alicant
Item Type:
Conference Paper

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