Water resources underpin every part of peoples’ livelihoods through the goods and services that are provided to society and yet is still not given the profile that such a strategic resource merits. Nowhere is this more true than in the Olifants Basin where decades of piecemeal development and management have meant that we now live in a catchment that is severely degraded with the exception of a few refuge tributaries such as the Wilge and Blyde Rivers. Major changes to the water quality, flow regime and riparian zone have severely compromised aquatic resilience, ecosystem services and hence livelihoods and human well-being. The potential climate change impacts, which are now better understood from the RESILIM-O work, will greatly exacerbate this vulnerability. Despite the importance of aquatic biodiversity as the foundation for ecosystem goods and services, all indications are that both water quality and quantity of the catchment continue to deteriorate under drivers of change such as mining, waste-water treatment works, industry, urbanization, the spread of alien invasive plants and agriculture. Secondly, climate change is likely to profoundly affect water resources as the predicted increasing temperatures affect water storage (including in the soil) through evapotranspiration and an increase in extreme events (floods and droughts).
AWARD strongly supports the need for a systemic basin-wide approach to water resources governance. It is this commitment that underpins our transboundary approach, be it across administrative, political, social or economic “boundaries”. Such a systemic approach recognizes the interconnected nature of socio-political, environmental and technical domains where residents play a central role in shaping the future and the custodianship of their own water resources. Not only is a strong stakeholder-centred process key but this needs to be supported by a robust and flexible enabling environment where good scientific and technical inputs support a learning and adaptive management and governance process. We need to accept that uncertainty is a feature of our lives. Ironically, increasing uncertainty – especially through climate change - is one of the few certainties we can count on. Given this, planning and acting in an environment that embraces learning and feedbacks is seen as the only way to navigate increasingly uncertain futures. For this reason we place a strong emphasis on a strategic adaptive management through systemic, social learning processes.
Thus with regard to the sustainability of the Olifant’s water resources, AWARD’s work aims to enhance longterm water security and reduce (climate) vulnerability by supporting informed adaptation strategies and practices for transboundary Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in the Olifants River Basin.
Support for our work:
Within this context, AWARD and USAID convened a workshop with the Departments of Water and Sanitation (DWS) in January 2014 to discuss key areas for support for RESILIM-O. The DWS recommended that RESILIM-O fall under the Directorate of Institutional Oversight with strong ties to RDM, both directorates that reflect the key focus areas of the work. This was supported by a letter of endorsement from the DDG Water sector Regulation, Mr Singh for the work in June 2015. Likewise a meeting was held with Direcção Nacional de Águas (DNA) and Ara-Sul in Maputo in March 2014 which also garnered support for the work.
With a focus on long-term sustainability and resilience, support for the emerging governance of the Olifants Basin is being undertaken through:
- improved systemic understanding,
- support for systemic and integrated governance to the Catchment Management Agencies (South Africa and Mozambique), forums and stakeholders;
- the development of an integrated decision-support system including tools and protocols in support of IWRM and training, and
- mobilising custodianship of residents over our water resources through training, mentoring and monitoring.
A cross-cutting theme involves understanding the potential impacts of climate change which is embedded across all of our work. Additionally we have tested a collaborative approach that facilitates cross-sectoral learning and action for joint custodianship of the water resources of the Ga-Selati sub-catchment under different scenarios such as climate change . Together with the Olifants CMA and DWA, we plan to expand this approach for use in resolving a critical, “vexing” water-related issue in the Olifants River Catchment.