River Basin Organizations (RBOs) have a unique opportunity to fully integrate groundwater and surface water management in an optimal and sustainable manner. Traditionally the integrated management of surface and groundwater has lagged behind in many RBOs for various reasons which include institutional separation of groundwater and surface water management, different knowledge and skill systems required for surface and groundwater management, and the geographic occurrence of Aquifer systems not always coinciding with river basin boundaries.
Realizing the potential of RBOs in groundwater management in the region, SADC-Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) and LIMCOM, in December 2018 signed a Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration on groundwater issues in the Limpopo River Basin. The framework for cooperation covers the following areas:
- Transboundary Cooperation that will facilitate the integration and harmonization of groundwater provisions between the national and basin level commitments;
- Support the need to update Protocols/Agreements with reference to solutions to address shared groundwater challenges, sharing of data and benefits from the cooperation;
- Promotion of Transboundary Aquifer Management in the riparian Member States and in collaboration with relevant government authorities;
- Jointly finding solutions to shared groundwater challenges through Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and Strategic Action Plans (SAP).
- Research on groundwater challenges in LIMCOM Transboundary Aquifers which will involve studies/pilots, information exchange on findings, training and implementation of solutions to emergent and priority groundwater management challenges;
- Collaborate on establishment and operationalization of institutional arrangements for shared Transboundary Aquifer management;
- Joint planning and implementation of activities such as workshops, research projects, etc including solicitation of funding where necessary; and
- Information and Communication Technologies for knowledge sharing platform to build an integrated data management system.
As a first step to advance the implementation of the already signed MoU, an inaugural meeting was held in Gaborone, Botswana, at the Grand Palm Hotel, Casino and Convention Resort from 28 February to 01 March 2019. The objective of the meeting was to bring together representatives from the riparian Member States (Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe) and other stakeholders within LIMCOM to share information and subsequently come up with modalities of engagement moving forward. Other key institutions attending the inaugural meeting were: Chemonics representing the USAID funded Resilient Waters Program, International Water Management Institute (IWMI); A4Labs and International Union Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These partners shared their ongoing and planned initiatives in the Limpopo River Basin in respect of groundwater.
It was at this meeting that the LIMCOM Groundwater Committee (LGC) was launched as the institutional structure to drive groundwater management in the Limpopo River Basin Commission. Each riparian Member State will nominate three representatives to sit on the LGC. Chairing of the LGC will be rotated among the Member States whereby the Member State chairing LIMCOM will simultaneously also chair the LGC. The LIMCOM Secretariat and SADC-GMI will provide secretariat services to the LGC. Other stakeholders with groundwater initiatives in the Limpopo River Basin will participate in the LGC by invitation on an as and when necessary basis. The meeting also provided further understanding surrounding this multistakeholder effort to protect SADC’s water sources and diverse but fragile biodiversity ecosystem.
This is another initiative/collaboration by SADC-GMI to fulfil its mandate of promoting equitable and sustainable groundwater management in the SADC region.