2.4 Increased Demand for Groundwater Resources

The political objective of economic growth and poverty reduction in the region requires that all potential water resources are appropriately protected and utilized. Groundwater is a significant resource in the region, but has been neglected in management. In drier countries with a strong dependence on groundwater, such as Botswana, Namibia and Mauritius, the level of development in the groundwater sector is quite high. The recurring droughts in the region have also reinforced the potential value of groundwater. The role of groundwater in the region includes (SADC, 2009):

  • meeting the domestic water requirements of a significant percentage of the population;
  • supplying smaller towns and settlements;
  • playing a conjunctive use role in larger urban settlements;
  • contributing to water security during drought conditions;
  • achieving food security for rural households; and,
  • maintaining environmental functions.

Groundwater’s changing role can best be illustrated using South Africa as an example. Until the new National Water Act of 1998, groundwater was defined in law as “private water” and was viewed to have only local importance. The predominantly hard rock systems, of which basement aquifers make up a major part, contributed only about 12 percent to the water supply. With the democratization of the country in 1994, there was a strong policy shift towards providing basic services, including water and sanitation services, to the entire population as soon as possible. At the time, approximately 15 million people or about 40 percent of the population did not have the most basic water supply. Focused strategies and action plans reduced this service backlog to less than 5 percent of the population by 2013. Overall, groundwater had become the domestic supply for 60 percent of communities and up to 90 percent in some provinces (Braune et al., 2014).

A recently drafted National Groundwater Strategy (DWAF, 2017) foresees an incremental institutional path moving from:

  1. technical development of the resource, to;
  2. groundwater management, taking account of its real value and unique characteristics; and ultimately to,
  3. groundwater governance as part of integrated water resource management.

All aspects of sustainable resource utilization, including conjunctive use of groundwater and other water sources as well as artificial recharge of groundwater sources, will have to be addressed, together with appropriate regulations, clear guidance, and ongoing raising of awareness through education and training initiatives.


Managed Aquifer Recharge: Southern Africa Copyright © 2021 by Eberhard Braune and Sumaya Israel. All Rights Reserved.