Southern Africa: Improvements to regional groundwater management

ground water management

With a view to improving development and management of groundwater in the region, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is developing several tools to empower persons and organisations involved in the management of groundwater in southern Africa.

Groundwater is likely to play an even greater role for human development under changing climatic conditions hence the need for the resource to be well protected, and properly managed as a measure to mitigate climate change effects.  The tools being developed by the SADC Water Division through the Groundwater and Drought Management Project will also assist in raising the profile of groundwater.

The tools include groundwater management plans for communities, maps that will give visual representation of the vulnerability of groundwater and the location of groundwater-dependent ecosystems in the region.

All ground water resources are vulnerable to various degrees, hence the groundwater vulnerability maps will assist in guiding planners and resource managers in determining which areas are more susceptible to groundwater contamination.  Groundwater-dependent ecosystems are vital yet poorly understood components of the natural environment.  Typical examples of these systems are springs and wetland ecosystems where groundwater seeps to soil surface occur.  In these systems groundwater contributes to water and nutrients which maintain a rich and unique biodiversity adjusted to these special conditions.

Methodologies on how to assist member states to establish the economic value of groundwater are also being developed.  All these tools and methodologies will inform decision making and thus assist decision makers in the proper management, policy analysis and development of ground water resources.

Source: The Water Wheel Vol 10 No 2

Groundwater over-abstraction and groundwater pollution are growing problems- many see groundwater as an inexhaustible supply of water but  in many countries, including South Africa, boreholes are drying up and some groundwater is highly contaminated with chemicals and human waste.  Better groundwater management is urgently required and hopefully the tools and information mentioned above will be thoroughly disseminated to local authorities in the region.

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