Water Vision: SADC Acts on Water Conservation
15 February 2000
by Tinashe Madava
As calls for better utilisation and conservation of water resources intensify, several "green
organisations" have taken the initiative to lobby governments and grassroots people to fomlulate
a concrete strategy for conserving this valuable resource for future generations.
Regional estimates put renewable fresh water resources at an annual average of 650 billion cubic
metres which is distributed in the rivers, lakes and groundwater bodies of southern Africa.
However, the availability of safe and clean drinking water to some communities in the region still
needs to be improved.
The Southern Africa Vision for Water, Life and the Environment in the 21" Century, drafted by
the Global Water Partnership Southern African Technical Advisory Committee (GWP-SATAC),
seeks to improve the availability of fresh water in the region. The draft for southern Africa is
drawn from the World Water Vision (WWV). The WWV is guided by the World Commission on
Water in the 21 sI Century and managed by a Vision Unit hosted by UNESCO in Paris, France.
The WWV aims to develop massive public awareness of the risks of major water problems as a
result of inaction, as well as encourage innovative thinking on how these problems can be
tackled. It also seeks to encourage and empower people to participate in devising and
implementing solutions to the water problems. The Water Vision is also aimed at generating
political commitment to turn public awareness into effective action.
The southern African vision statement has come out of a consultative process involving citizens
and officials in at least 11 of the 14 Southern African Development Community (SADC)
countries. Central to the ideas contained in the vision document is the utilisation of shared water
"You cannot look at water resources problems in Africa without being stared in the face by
transboundary water resources and the problems they can face," says Professor Albert Wright. a
consultant with the Global Water Partnership in Copenhagen.
About 70 percent of the region's water resources are in the foml of watercourse systems that are
shared by two or more states. With the exclusion of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the 11
continental SADC member states share water from 15 systems.
The biggest watercourse in SADC is the Zambezi river basin, shared by eight riparian countries.
These are Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The river is utilised differently by people living along it.
Wright pointed out that water sources such as river basins serving more than one country should
be treated as the common resource of all the countries concerned.
The water vision emphasises that increasing cooperation and integration among SADC members
is the way toward meaningful socio-economic development. Shared watercourses have been a
potential source of conflict and the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses seeks to promote
cooperation in the utilisation of common water resources within the region.
According to Banda, water is one of the prime movers for integration and a key sector that would
contribute immensely towards the achievement of SADC's key objectives that include poverty
alleviation, food security and economic development.
As Banda puts it, "the water vision attempts to drive policies from the grassroots and seeks to
convince people and governments that there are benefits to be derived from sharing resources".
The Global Water Partnership is responsible for the development of a framework for action in
parallel with the World Water Vision. Concrete and realistic programmes of action are needed.
While the vision describes possible future scenarios and indicates where to go, the Framework for
Action is a route map of how to get there. It will identify the milestones in the process and the
policy measures, management instrnm"ents, investment priorities and the implementation strategy
required to reach those milestones.
The document states that "the region's people have sustainable and equitable access to water ofa
sufficient quantity and quality to meet basic human needs. This must have priority over all other
Banda urged the different countries to "stop thinking nationally" where agricultural water use is
concerned. He pointed out that for better use, the SADC states should think along the lines of
regional water dependence, saying this will help in regional food security as member countries
concentrate on producing crops that are suitable to their water demand.
The southern African vision statement highlights that growing populations, coupled with
environmental factors that include deforestation, extension of desert regions and pollution, are
increasing competition for existing water supplies. (SARDC)