Constraints to development of water resources
A number of limitations are often cited as hindering
SADC's endeavour to achieve an integrated approach
to water resources development. The constraints are aptly
explained in the RSAP as follows:
The legal and regulatory framework
National water legislation in most SADC countries is
outdated, inadequate and generally weakly enforced.
One reason effective integrated water resources development
and management is difficult to attain is because different
national laws covering water often conflict. Concerning the
jurisprudence of treaties, most regional SADC treaties are
still not applicable at the national level unless and until their
obligations are incorporated in national law.
There has however been some notable breakthrough in some
countries for instance Zimbabwe, Republic of South Africa,
Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique.
Zimbabwe put into place a Water Act in 1998 (the act was
first promulgated in 1927). But critics still say this is not
enough as the law only deals with administrative aspects of
water, mainly as they relate to equitable distribution without
really underlining issues pertaining to water quality.
Commentaries say the Zimbabwe Water Act concentrates
on the “appropriation doctrine”, where water rights are
allocated on a first come, first served basis instead of the
riparian doctrine which advocates that stakeholders can enjoy
use of the resource in varying degrees as an inherent right.
This is what would be in harmony with the SADC water
The efficient operation and management of water
resources development and the equitable sharing and
utilization of their benefits are marginally realized due to a
lack of comprehensive, integrated basin-wide approach in
the development and management process. The management
of water resources requires strong and effective mechanisms
for inter-sectoral planning and co-ordination. Without these
mechanisms the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses
may not be effectively operationalized.
Linkages with sustainable development policies
Current macro-economic policies in the region have
only just begun to address the economic incentives to
encourage the conservation and sustainable use of water
resources. Economic instruments can encourage cost
effectiveness, increase investments in water infrastructure,
and act as incentives for efficient use of water and pollution
control. Although this is a relatively new concern for many
SADC countries, there is considerable scope for making
macro policies for the water sector – and the regulatory
framework for their enforcement – more economically and
Data collection, management and dissemination
SADC countries need to improve the knowledge base
for improved management of water resources. Integrated
management is dependent on acquiring appropriate, adequate
and up-to-date information, managing this information and
making it available to a large diversity of end users. Regional
and local capacities need to be developed and supported for
the continuous updating of pertinent data for planning and
monitoring purposes. Without such adequate knowledge, the
SADC protocol on Shared Watercourses can not be
Awareness building, education and training
There is insufficient awareness about the state of water
resources to address their economic, social,
environmental and management implications. This limited
understanding represents a serious constraint to improved
water resources management and development.
Government ministries, municipalities or water
companies are usually responsible for the water supply.
The disadvantage of this top-down approach to water
resources development is that almost no choice is given to
beneficiaries for selecting the kinds of water services they
receive. Similarly, irrigation projects have often had a sad
legacy of not seeking to involve the intended beneficiaries
in project design and implementation.
Inadequate infrastructure has hindered the optimum
distribution of domestic water and sanitation services
generally, and especially, to the poor. In some urban areas
growth in population has outstripped designed infrastructure
systems, many of which now require redesign and upgrading.
In fact, most large water infrastructure, most notably dams,
were constructed for single-purpose use, such as hydropower
or irrigation. Therefore, they are unable to meet the
growing demands of multi-purpose usage. At the same time,
ground water, which is the main source for many rural areas,
has not been well researched and developed.
Human resource capacity
Other contraints relate to capacity-building especially
for the weaker states as an important initial requirement,
so that they are adequately represented in the broader
regional bodies. It is important for each state to be able to
initiate and implement water resources management
strategies within the Water Sector.
A number of institutions have
been set up for capacitybuilding
dissemination which include
the Institute of Water and
(ISWD), the pre-existing Water
Research Commission in South
Africa and the new Master of
Science degree in Water
Resource Engineering and
Management at the University
of Zimbabwe. The Integrated
Water Resource Management
(IWRM) masters' degree
programme under WaterNet (Secretariat at the University of Zimbabwe) has been
The establishment of joint research groups, joint plans and
joint ventures, will improve transparency and the exchange
of information and, in the long term, dispel fears of being
overwhelmed by stronger states. The recently introduced
Regional Consultancy Fund and Regional Research Fund
will make significant contribution in this respect.
Reforms and international
The legal and institutional
pillars ensure that all
activities within the water
sector or with impacts on it are
properly executed. This
includes taking into account
international water law.
In recent years there have been
major in-country legal and
institutional reforms in the
water sector in line with
national agreements and provisions of the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourse
Systems. It is encouraging that these reforms are being
developed along similar generic lines:
These reforms should enhance regional understanding of
individual state water laws and therefore minimize
misunderstanding and potential for conflict.
Lack of qualified legal experts has been identified as one
of the major drawbacks towards integration. Several
capacity-building programmes in water law were instituted
to fill the gap. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, capacity
still exists only at junior levels where there is no authority
to make important decisions. Qualified senior staff tend to
leave for better opportunities due to poor salaries.
International water legislation does not have laws to
prosecute a country violating water rights but relies on
peaceful co-operation from neighbours. However the
SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourse Systems is a legallybinding
document among member states. Increasing the
number of regional experts and on these legal instruments
and continued confidence building in the system will
minimize the possibilities of conflicts.The revision of the
SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourse Systems has
enhanced the acceptability of this regional legal instrument.
Thirteen member states have already signed the revised
Protocol. All efforts should be made to secure the ratification
of the revised Protocol.