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Groundwater is key to navigating Climate Change in the SADC region, say experts at the close of the SADC Groundwater Conference

The three-day conference, held by SADC-GMI at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa closed on a high note on Friday, 28 September 2018.  The conference theme was “Adapting to Climate Change in the SADC Region through Water Security – A Focus on Groundwater”. The conference was attended by top groundwater experts, policy makers, government officials, young professionals and students to discuss how to future-proof the region from the impact of the Climate Change – focusing on groundwater resources. After two and the half days of deliberations, all stakeholders agreed that groundwater is key in navigating Climate Change in the region and the continent.

 Groundwater is critical to the future of agricultural and industrial sectors, and people in the region, particularly in the rural areas where a large population is dependent on it.  Groundwater is also a regional issue as Transboundary Aquifers are shared between Member States. Therefore Collaborated efforts  on water is critical for peace and socio-economic development in SADC.

The complexity of groundwater resources and number of role-players in the region has necessitated regional organization, hence the establishment of the SADC-GMI and this conference has made strides in ensuring information sharing and collaboration. “Working together is crucial for water security as the effects of climate change are increasingly felt,” said James Sauramba, Executive Director of the SADC-Groundwater Management Institute. Climate change, poor maintenance, population growth, pollution, and rapid urbanization are all challenges impacting groundwater sustainability and development in the region.

Critical takeaway messages from the Conference were:

  • Need for science to inform policy
  • Integration of groundwater Management into River Basin Organizations institutional structures
  • Effective groundwater monitoring systems
  • Strong national structures in order to strengthen regional structures
  • Channel funding in the right direction to ensure sustainable groundwater management
  • Package groundwater messages correctly for different stakeholders
  • Share knowledge at national and regional levels
  • Water, food and energy nexus – water security, food security and energy security are inextricably linked and must be treated conjunctively for best results

“We hope the takeaways from the conference will help us build a strong research and informational base to make decisions to ensure proper supply of water for industrial and agricultural development.  This is a crucial piece of the puzzle in meeting future needs of our growing populations for food, water and job security,” said Sauramba.

 “The conference provided a platform for all groundwater stakeholders to advance knowledge sharing on sustainable management of groundwater at national and transboundary levels across SADC members states. The conference also provided a platform to discuss and contribute to international development on groundwater.” Sauramba said.

Monitoring, maintenance and development of groundwater infrastructure is key to future proofing the region. “We are particularly grateful to our sponsors who have generously supported this event and made it a reality. We would also like to say thank you to everyone who participated in this inaugural SADC Groundwater Conference” said Sauramba.

The keynote speakers at the conference included Dr. Karen G. Villholth (IMWI-SA), Prof. Jason Gurdak (UNESCO – IHP), Dr. Roger Parsons (Parsons & Associates), Dhesigen Naidoo (Water Research Commission, South Africa), Dr. Callist Tindimugaya (International Association of Hydrologists) and Gavin Kode (Western Cape Government, South Africa). Together they led discussions on the importance and role in dealing with development, economic and environmental challenges in the SADC region.

The groundwater experts who attended the conference said they look forward to the recommendations of the conference being taken up by the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) in conjunction with the African Union Commission in the upcoming meeting “Toward Achieving Water Security and Safely Managed Sanitation for Africa” to be held from October 29 to November 2, 2018 in Libreville, Gabon.