10 Conclusion

Excellent progress has been made with all knowledge-related aspects and promotion of artificial recharge in South Africa. This has been driven by the Water Research Commission with its research and development programs for nearly 50 years. A tremendous opportunity was created when the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, with support from the Water Research Commission, produced a detailed Artificial Recharge Strategy to use natural sub-surface storage as part of Integrated Water Resource Management wherever technologically, economically, environmentally and socially feasible.

The stumbling block to a systematic roll-out of this technology has been the lack of institutional development for the sustainable utilization and management of groundwater resources in South Africa – at the local (city) level, regional support level and at the national policy and support level.

Way Forward Towards Good Groundwater Governance

The way forward for this globally problematic stumbling block is best captured in a recent major global initiative: ‘Groundwater Governance: A Global Framework for Action’ (De Chaisemartin et al., 2017). Its vision underlines the important role of groundwater around the world, the dependency of humans and ecosystems on it and the existence of significant threats to groundwater resources. All these factors call for good groundwater governance, guided in particular by the following working principles:

  • groundwater should not be managed in isolation, but conjunctively as appropriate with other water sources to improve water security and assure ecosystem health;
  • groundwater quality and resources quantity should be co-managed, and therefore groundwater management needs to be harmonized with land management;
  • effective groundwater governance requires co-governance of the subsurface space;
  • vertical integration is required between national and local levels of resource management in the elaboration and implementation of groundwater management and protection plans; and,
  • coordination should be established with the macro-policies of other sectors – such as agriculture, energy, health, urban and industrial development, and the environment.

The need for good groundwater governance is particularly important in urban areas due to the stress placed on water resources by unprecedented rates of population growth and urbanization, resulting in a “widespread crisis of urban water governance, particularly in developing countries” (Howard, 2015).

Groundwater specialists do not need to sit with folded hands because the groundwater institutional issue may appear out of their competency and responsibility. The National Groundwater Strategy (Department Water and Sanitation, 2017) puts special emphasis on ways forward in this regard, in which individuals and the profession as a whole can play a vital part.

Wise words were quoted in the introduction to a 1995 proposal to move ahead with development of the Cape Flats Aquifer venture as a team effort without further delay. It can only be hoped that 25 years on, this wisdom will finally prevail.

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” (Samuel Johnson).


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