Capacity development for communities, local structures/institutions are key for sustainable water resources management and development
Sustainable management of groundwater is firmly anchored on societal values and managing conflicting stakeholder interests. Therefore, the local capacity of institutions to respond to water resources challenges, especially under extreme and harsh climate change-induced conditions, is a vital component of the systems approach. Citizen Science offers potential solutions to some groundwater challenges, hence the need for groundwater professionals to further explore its roles, especially around groundwater data collection. Closely related to this is the policy considerations that arise and the resultant impact on groundwater conditions.
Thus, the systems thinking approach emphasises the inclusion of the community, developing capacity of institutions and policy issues to manage the resource sustainably. In addition, groundwater contributes significantly to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), with its role becoming more evident with the current COVID 19 pandemic. Communities play a significant role in the sustainability of WASH infrastructure hence they are pivotal to the success of interventions to contain current and future pandemics. Sub-theme 2 of the 4th SADC Groundwater Conference will discuss the role of communities, local institutions (formal and informal), and local government in the sustainable groundwater development, in shaping groundwater discourses and WASH.
Various community institutions including NGOs and Water Users Associations play a critical role in this regard as they work closely with communities and understand the community needs regarding water. It is envisaged that the true integration between water services and water resources management can best be achieved at this level. NGOs in this instance for continued facilitation cannot be emphasized enough.
Countries engage local communities in ways prescribed in their respective National Water legislations. In a country like South Africa, the National Water Act provides for Water User Associations (WUA) to be set up as localised bodies (within a particular Water Management Area), which are defined as “associations of individual water users that undertake water related activities for mutual benefits.” The government goal in encouraging WUA formation is to improve the citizens’ access to water in an egalitarian way, reduce long-term government subsidy to irrigators, foster a culture of proactive associations, and promote self-determination in local water management to stimulate economic development, especially among the poor.
These structures are critical in ensuring sustainable water resource management and supply at a local level and ensuring that interventions are aligned to the needs of the communities. Having and capacitating such structures ensures that communities’ water supply needs are met.
It is fundamentally important that the knowledge and the capacity of relevant stakeholders and people living in rural communities is built to effectively track the implementation of government WASH projects and empower them to manage available water infrastructure.
Local government is one of the most important structures in ensuring that service delivery happens. Especially when it comes to community water needs, the local government is more in tuned with water requirements of the communities, therefore communications between the national, local government and other community structures are key for effective water management and supply. It also important that the local government is capacitated in adopting the integrated water resources management to meet the needs of communities that fall under their leadership. In many contexts, reforms for effective water management are hampered by an unclear allocation of roles and responsibilities, territorial fragmentation, and limited capacity at the local level, hence capacity development for local institutions is key.
In Mozambique, the National Act provides a mechanism for stakeholder involvement (GTZ 2005), through the act National Water Councils are established at national level to facilitate multi-sectoral stakeholder meetings. Below these structures, there are Water Committees intended to perform the day-to-day management of water resources. The role of the Water Committees includes assessing water conditions, specially related to flooding and drought, and collecting fees at the local level.