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1st SADC Groundwater Conference 26-28 September 2018

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2018 Post-Conference Report

African Ministers Council on Water

African Union Commission

German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources

Department of Water and Sanitation South Africa

Groundwater Resources Assessment Under the Pressure of Humanity and Climate Change

The Global Water Partnerships for Southern Africa

International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre

Institute for Groundwater Studies

International Water Management Institute

Lake/River Based Organisations

Managed Aquifer Recharge

Multi-Country Cooperation Mechanism

Operation and Maintenance

Ramotswa Information Management System

Southern African Development Community

Southern African Development Community Groundwater Management Institute

SADC-Groundwater DataCom
Groundwater Data Collection and Management in SADC Member States

South African National Parks

Sustainable Development Goals

Stampriet Transboundary Aquifer System

Transboundary Aquifer

University of Botswana

University of the Free State

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation – International Hydrogeological Programme

Water Business Continuity Plan

Western Cape Government

Water Energy and Food


September 2018 had a special meaning to us at the Southern African Development Community Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI).

In September 2018, we celebrated the second year of our full operationalisation as SADC’s Centre of Excellence for sustainable and equitable groundwater management in the region. It was also our inaugural conference under the theme “Adapting to Climate Change in the SADC Region through Water Security – A Focus on Groundwater”. This was the confluence where all groundwater stakeholders could share experiences and chart a progressive and inclusive path for the future.

The task of giving life to SADC’s Regional Strategic Action Plan on Integrated Water Resources Development and Management Phase IV, of SADC’s strategic framework from 2016- 2021, has meant that the past two years have been eventful. A lot has gone into the formidable task of giving Member States the institutional muscle necessary to develop groundwater and to measure its equitable impact on socio-economic development. SADC-GMI’s intervention has brought the necessary urgency to multi-state cooperation on transboundary groundwater basins.

This has certainly lifted the burden previously involved in integrating knowledge, skills and capacity across the region. The SADC Subcommittee on Hydrology now finds a more conducive environment for implementing infrastructure funding initiatives with stakeholders through the Sub-Grant Scheme which is carried out by National Focal Groups at Member State level. National Focal Groups avail two important opportunities worth mentioning.

First, they offer us a coordinated approach to capacity building at Member State level. For all SADC countries we now have a fuller appreciation of the needs involved, the stakeholders affected and the nature of the support we can provide. Second, they show development finance institutions that the blending of data, research, good governance and strong institutional capacity make for sustainable infrastructure projects worth investing in. We held our inaugural conference fully aware of the fragility that climate change brings to groundwater resources. This is cause for serious concern. But this also presents interesting challenges for groundwater stakeholders across the region. The challenges should embolden us to find creative and lasting solutions to water security in the region and this is what the conference achieved.


The 1st SADC Groundwater Conference, held from September 26 to 28, 2018 at the Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, brought groundwater experts and stakeholders to share information on the challenges and innovative solutions that are taking place in SADC.

Groundwater has become an issue of increasing prominence and concern as climate change and rainfall variability requires increased understanding and knowledge sharing about groundwater. Held under the theme “Adapting to Climate Change in the SADC Region through Water Security – A Focus on Groundwater”, the conference was organised by The Southern African Development Community Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI).

The conference aimed to address the lack of awareness of, and reliable information about groundwater, inform interventions and promote cross- boundary cooperation on groundwater. The inaugural groundwater conference was held in response to the felt increasing water-related challenges in SADC countries.

This is a cause for serious concern and presents interesting challenges for groundwater stakeholders across the SADC Region, where it is estimated that over 70% of the 250 million people living in the region rely on groundwater as their primary source of water. The conference provided the opportunity for the first time to representatives from Member States, experts and other stakeholders to debate and discuss not only the great dependence of human populations and ecosystems on groundwater in the region, but also the available technology and resources that aid groundwater management. With surface water facing increasing risks from climate change, millions of people and large parts of economies are becoming more fragile. Groundwater resources present a number of opportunities, as they comprise a means to cope with rainfall variability and alleviate growing water scarcity in the region. However, poor information and management of the resource can lead to pollution and depletion.

Proactive groundwater management systems and accounting for climate change in groundwater resources planning coupled with early warning mechanisms to detect groundwater over-abstraction and contamination are required to secure the long-term, sustainable use and dependence on the resource and to optimally harness the potential of the resource. It is therefore imperative that conjunctive use of surface and groundwater is understood and advocated for, especially in transboundary aquifers (TBAs) of the SADC Region where significant human development is happening presently. 

The role of groundwater in the water, energy and food (WEF) nexus and the links to sanitation and other infrastructure issues needs to be further explored. Knowledge and capacity development at all levels are required to enhance the attention to and proper development and management of groundwater. The SADC Groundwater Conference will be held annually, with the primary objective of providing a platform for the advancement of knowledge sharing on sustainable management of groundwater at national and transboundary levels across SADC Member States. 

The conference was held in collaboration with the United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – International Hydrogeological Programme (UNESCO-IHP), the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Global Water Partnerships for Southern Africa (GWP-SA). This year’s conference was attended by 123 participants from 26 different countries, with 38 presentations, two panel discussions and one roundtable discussion taking place over the course of the three days. The Conference was widely engaged with on social media, under the hashtag #GWConference2018. This report provides a summary of the key messages arising from the event and abstracts from each of the presentations.






The official opening focused on the theme of the inaugural conference, “Adapting to Climate Change in the SADC Region through Water Security — A Focus on Groundwater”. It was presided over by eSwatini’s Director of Water Affairs in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy, Trevor Shongwe. The opening speakers were two highly-esteemed individuals in the SADC water sector: Chairperson of SADC-GMI’s board and former head of the SADC Water Division, Phera Ramoeli, and Deputy Director General of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) in South Africa, Lindiwe Lusenga. Both speakers opened by recognising the significance of the 1st SADC-GMI Groundwater Conference. The speakers noted SADC-GMI’s progress thus far from an intention in 1999, its founding in 2011, to it being a subsidiary structure of SADC, to the first conference, which was to allow for the sharing of groundwater information, innovation and experiences. Mr Ramoeli highlighted groundwater’s importance in irrigation, water and food security, especially when an overwhelming majority of the SADC Region’s population rely on groundwater as a primary source of water supply.

Southern African Development Community Groundwater Management Institute

“It is estimated that over 70% of the 255 million people living in the SADC Region, and more than 75% of sub- Saharan Africans rely on groundwater as their primary source of water.”

“Groundwater and not surface water constitute about 97% of fresh water resources in Africa.”

“40% of the region’s population use informal or unimproved sources of water, which are often unsafe and prone to the effects of drought. Groundwater is often the only source for the poor and those in the rural areas.”

Department of Water and Sanitation (South Africa)

“Let me first congratulate SADC, our mother body, for leading us to where we are today, it has been a long journey, starting in 1999 where they set the pace for us through the various policies and strategies, in ensuring that we remain climate resilient in the region.”

“This meeting is going to give us solutions. Let this solution not be only for us, but the whole world, and also the ordinary people.”


Presenting the keynote paper of the conference was the Principal Researcher of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Dr Karen G. Villholth. Dr Villholth delivered a paper entitled “Adapting to climate change in the SADC Region — a focus on groundwater.” Dr Vilholth emphasised the great opportunity that groundwater presents in addressing water-security challenges. Furthermore, she contended that groundwater is a strategic resource, which is drought-proof and climate resilient when managed correctly.

International Water Management Institute

“Groundwater can be a component of climate-change adaptation in the region.”

“Groundwater is not only a resource that we need to be concerned and worried about — to see as a problem — but also very much a big opportunity to solve some of our issues in terms of water supply, security, and resilience.”

“Every time you have a drought period, the groundwater levels go down. This is due to less recharge to the resource (rain), and more dependency on the resource during those periods.”

“Groundwater is a key resource for socio-economic development, water security and drought resilience in SADC.”



In a session chaired by Phera Ramoeli, Dhesigen Naidoo CEO of the Water Research Commission, delivered the keynote presentation of the morning session for sub-theme 1 with a paper entitled, “Adapting to a changing climate to ensure water-energy-food security”. Mr Naidoo opened his presentation by noting how neglected knowledge investment on groundwater issues is. Without knowledge and data, interventions addressing the WEF security nexus would fail.

Mr Naidoo noted that the need for informed TBA management is becoming more urgent as WEF demands are increasing in Africa and the rest of the world. Mr Naidoo cautioned that it is fundamentally important that SADC’s TBAs are managed well.. He warned that the choices made now around these resources are critical for future proofing the region.

Water Research Commission (WRC), South Africa

“Groundwater as you would know is neglected. It is neglected at the level of implementation, it is also neglected at the level of knowledge investment and it’s neglected at the level of practitioner investment, and South Africa found out this the hard way through the recent drought in Cape Town, South Africa.”

“Groundwater is going to have a major part to play not only in the water strategy for the region going forward, but in the overall development strategy for the region going forward.”

“Moving into the future we should be wise and organize for renewable energy, and possibly nuclear energy, for the purposes of sustainability.”

“The relationship between water-energy-food is an intimate one. Agricultural production as well as Agri processing cannot happen without water and energy.”

Following Dhesigen Naidoo’s keynote address, six presenters contributed to day one’s sub-theme:

  • Khangweleni Fortress Netili from the DWS in South Africa gave a review of how South Africa is managing its National Groundwater Monitoring Network and its implications for the country’s TBA management obligations.
  • Jonathan Lautze from IMWI presented on lessons learned from the Ramotswa (shared between Botswana and South Africa) and Stampriet (shared between Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) Transboundary aquifers, which aimed to strengthen cooperation on TBAs in SADC.
  • Tsepho Jankie, an independent researcher from Botswana presentated on the implications of climate change in the Transboundary Tuli-Karoo Sub-Basin shared between Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
  • Anthon Lukas from the University of the Free State in South Africa shared results from an evaluation of the SADC Hydrogeological Mapping Borehole Database and the implications for Member State’s future data collection.
  • Christina Fraser from University of Strathclyde in Scotland spoke about a resource-light assessment methodology used in exploring Malawi’s TBAs.
  • Davison Saruchera from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa presented the findings and lessons for SADC on an assessment of the status and strength of conjunctive management of surface and groundwater in transboundary waters treaties.

Department of Water and Sanitation (South Africa)

“The Department of water and sanitation (DWS) has a mandate to protect, use, develop, conserve, monitor, manage and control South Africa’s water resources in an integrated manner.”

“The current groundwater monitoring network coverage for South Africa is skewed and inconsistent.”

International Water Management Institute

“There has been scant investigation on the practicalities of implementing TBA management in Africa.”

“There is no blueprint for TBA cooperation. Rather, these initial experiences in SADC provide tools and illustrate options for strengthening management of shared groundwater resources, which can be placed in a larger toolbox and drawn upon as needed in other systems.”

Independent Researcher

“The work, which this presentation is based on, is intended to assess the possible impact of future climate change scenarios on groundwater recharge in the transboundary Tuli-Karoo sub- basin of southern Africa.”

“This study is important in enhancing the knowledge and capacity of decision makers, to allow them to sustainably manage groundwater both for current and future demands.”

University of the Free State

“SADC-GMI commissioned the IGRAC to revive the SADC Hydrogeological Map that was developed in 2010 to identify all shortcomings in the dataset, including identifying errors and absentees in the data.”

“This process has the potential of improving future data collection.”

University of Witwatersrand

“The scale of conjunctive water management treaties is not straightforward.”

“Limited growth of robust conjunctive treaties is likely due to knowledge gaps. Urgent investment in filling these knowledge gaps is needed.”

“Those who genuinely want to implement conjunctive management lack guidelines on how to do so”

University of Strathclyde

“Countries need to take responsibility for their potential transboundary impacts.”

“Zooming in on hotspots can allow countries to make directed management decisions where they are actually needed.”

Parsons & Associates

“There have been severe water restrictions applied to the agricultural sector, the industrial sector and the urban environment in the city of Cape Town.”

“This had a devasting impact on the economy, and in particular the poorest of the poor.”

“Throughout this crisis, groundwater continued to play an important role, along with the more expensive desalination and less popular recycling.”

“About 13 % of the volume of municipal water in the Western Cape Province is now sourced from groundwater.”

“There is plenty of evidence that groundwater levels across the Western Cape Province have not been significantly impacted by the drought.”


Continuing on sub-theme 1, the afternoon session of day one kicked off with a keynote address by natural scientist, and Parsons & Associates CEO Dr Roger Parsons who presented a paper entitled “Groundwater — Avoiding the Single Story.” The presentation takes inspiration from Chimamanda Adichie’s viral Ted talk which, like Parsons’ presentation, detailed the dangers of looking at things from only one’s own perspective, using the water crisis in Cape Town, South Africa. In this keynote address, Dr Parsons’ also emphasised the significance of creating an environment that will enable multi-country collaboration on water resources management, as well as creating funding opportunities to expand and maintain groundwater monitoring networks. One of the key takeaways from the presentation is that information on groundwater should be provided to those who need it, like information on surface water.

Dr Parsons’ presentation was followed by other presentations and a panel discussion continuing on the first day’s sub-theme of “Promoting climate change resilience through TBAs management and conjunctive groundwater surface water management in the SADC Region”. These presentations focused on the need to manage and share data as well as build skills, knowledge and cooperation within and between Member States.

The presentations were:

  • Kwazikwakhe Majola from the DWS in South Africa presented on the Ramotswa Information Management System (RIMS), a system developed to compile, house and display mappable data from the Ramotswa TBA.

  • Phuti Mabotja from the University of the Free State (UFS) shared insights on how free software can aide in optimising and managing groundwater.

  • Piet Kenabatho from the University of Botswana (UB) shared about the journey towards improved governance of TBA’s in southern Africa, central to this being the establishment of the Stampriet Transboundary Aquifer System (STAS), and the Multi-Country Cooperation Mechanism (MCCM).

  • Sakeus Ihemba from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry in Namibia presented on a case in Namibia, looking at groundwater governance and the demand for sustainable agriculture in the Grootfontein-Tsumeb-Otavi Subterranean Water Control Area.

  • Girma Y. Ebrahim from the International Water Management Institute spoke about sustainable agricultural groundwater use, with a focus on the case of the Hard Rock Catchment in Hout, Limpopo Province, South Africa.

International Water Management Institute

“The Hout River catchment/Dendron aquifer area is one of the most agriculturally-productive regions in South Africa.”

“Hydrogeological modelling is fundamental for understanding dynamics and spatial and temporal variability in key parameters required for managing the groundwater resources sustainably, and for maintaining resilience in the context of increasing water demand and climate change.”

Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (Namibia)

“The high demand for groundwater resources for agricultural purposes in the Central Area of Namibia has put the resource under tremendous pressure.”

“Groundwater use for agriculture as well as cross-basin augmentation during drought periods has increased the use of the resource to above the sustainable safe yield.”

“Climate change is posing as a new challenge to manage the resource.”

University of Botswana

“Understanding this precious groundwater resource and managing it sustainably is essential to achieving water security in the area and thus, improving the quality of life of neighbouring and resident communities.”

“The Multi-Country Cooperation Mechanism for the governance and management of the STAS established in August 2017 is the first example of institutionalising cooperation over a transboundary aquifer in southern Africa.”

University of Free State

“Data collection and management remains the key areas of concern in groundwater management. This can be improved by using software programmes.”

“Advancement of free software development is necessary to realise better groundwater management.”

Department of Water and Sanitation (South Africa)

“The Ramotswa Information Management System contributes to the 2030 Groundwater Governance Vision as well as the SADC Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses.”

“The system was designed to store, share, process and interpret data and information of groundwater resources.”

“This information and reports are accessible to everyone.”


A panel discussion facilitated by Dr Karen G. Villholth and Girma Y. Ebrahim on TBA hotspots in the SADC Region concluded the day. Panellists to the discussions were:

  • Peterson Robin from South African National Parks
  • Eddie Riddell from South African National Parks
  • Ralf Klingbeil from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources in Germany

All presented findings of studies they undertook that contributed to the understanding of hotspots. Robin presented findings from a study on hydrological dynamics in Mapungubwe National Park, Riddell on TBAs and the role of large protected area management in Limpopo, while Klingbeil gave the results of a study on deep, semi- fossil aquifers in southern Africa.

South African National Parks – Scientific Services

“The key groundwater issues in the Mapungubwe National Park are related to the abstraction of water for mining activities and agricultural purposes.”

“The abstraction from these aquifers not only affects the base flow contribution to the Limpopo River during the dry season, but also applies great stress on aquifer dependent ecosystems.”

“By gaining an understanding of the processes and mechanisms associated with water in the landscape, groundwater management will be strengthened to allow the natural interaction/ movement/exchange between groundwater and surface water and allow sustainable use of groundwater resources without damage to the natural functions and processes associated with the aquifers.”

South African National Parks – Kruger National Park

“The Limpopo Basin Aquifer shared between South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe is a potentially valuable water source to resource poor farmers to meet and sustain small scale irrigation demands even during dry periods when surface flow ceases.”

Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (Germany)

“Large intracontinental basins in Africa are likely to comprise still-hidden fossil or semi-fossil aquifers.”

“Such deep-lying aquifers represent a strategic resource for a fast-growing population and can support the adaptation to climate change.”


The second day of the conference was opened by a keynote address by Prof Jason Gurdak of San Francisco State University on climate variability and sustainable groundwater stores entitled “Beneath the surface of climate change: managing sustainable groundwater within the water-energy-food-climate NEXUS.” He emphasised the increasing pressure on global water, energy, and food resources brought about by climate change and economic development. These stresses amplify the need for trade-offs and incite conflicts among stakeholders.

Prof Gurdak then presented new findings from the UNESCO Groundwater Resources Assessment under the Pressure of Humanity and
Climate Change (GRAPHIC) project. The GRAPHIC project was undertaken against the backdrop of the pressure on global WEF resources, as well as the global groundwater crisis. The project aims to help manage our way through this climate change and economic development crisis.


“Many African countries have an opportunity to avoid groundwater crisis, but lack proper groundwater
monitoring station to support decision making”

“Groundwater management institutions could further incentivise managed aquifer recharge (MAR) projects.”

“MAR operations should take advantage of temporal patterns of precipitation and enhanced
recharge during wet phases of climate oscillations.”



Following Prof Jason Gurdak’s keynote address, the focus was on sub-theme 2 entitled “towards an understanding of the impact of climate change on groundwater resources and exploring climate-smart groundwater infrastructure options.” Twelve people presented
during the morning session.

The insightful session with practical knowledge sharing included presentations from Steven Kumwenda from BASEflow in Malawi, on groundwater recharge and baseflow in the SADC region and Girma Y. Ebrahim on groundwater/aquifer recharge. The presentations explored managed aquifer recharge (MAR), as a management tool in the sustainable use of water resources in order to address the most-feared impacts of climate change, such as the alteration of the hydrological cycle. Currently, MAR is not widely practiced in Africa and is concentrated in only eight African countries.

Other presentations in the morning session were delivered by Esther Chifuniro from the State Key Laboratory of Hydrology-Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering in Nanjing China and Manuel Magombeyi from the International Water Management Institute. Both the presentations looked at groundwater and salinity.

The rest of the presentations were by:

  • Alfred Kabo Petros from the Department of Water Affairs in Botswana
  • Moiteela Lekula from the University of Twente in Netherlands
  • Karen G. Villholth from International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
  • J.D. van Niekerk from the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa
  • Zachariah Maswuma from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) in South Africa
  • Manuel Magombeyi. from International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

The presentations presented methodologies in use for measuring groundwater levels and quality and assessing the sustainability of groundwater resources, as well as infrastructure options for groundwater management.

State Key Laboratory of Hydrology-Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering

“19.5% of irrigated land is salt affected making saline soils one of the major threats to world food production. One of the many contributing factors to soil secondary salinization is shallow groundwater which is a common occurrence in heavily irrigated regions.”

International Water Management Institute

“Monitoring tools for soil-water, nutrient and salts in irrigated agriculture can help one identify areas that need improved Management. This allows for increased gross water productivity while also improving food security.”

Department of Water Affairs (Botswana)

“Findings show that floods in arid and semiarid regions in Botswana causes groundwater levels to rise. Understanding the groundwater processes that take place prior, during and after extreme flood events is crucial to the sustainable management of groundwater resources.”

University of Twente

“Groundwater resources replenishment dynamics evaluation is critical
for effectively managing the resource.”

University of Free State

“The success of sustainable groundwater management is influenced by data quality, identifying problems and the associated cause of each problem. The complexity of this science requires the ability to integrate a variety of specialist skills. Common inaccuracies can be addressed by accurate data collection, time management, planning and experience.”


Chaired by Khangweleni Fortress Netili from the Department of Water and Sanitation in South Africa, the afternoon session of the second day of the conference opened with keynote speaker Gavin Kode from the Western Cape Provincial Department of Public Works in South Africa, who presented a paper entitled “Experiences from the Western Cape Government (WCG) Water Business Continuity Plan (WBCP) Programme’s use of groundwater”

Mr Kode spoke on how groundwater was strategically used as a solution for the water crisis in Cape Town, South Africa. His presentation noted how the province’s WBCP used groundwater to allow for certain critical facilities across the province to keep running irrespective of municipal water failure because of the drought and water crisis.

Following Mr Kode’s keynote address, Theresa Mkandawire from the University of Malawi and Albie Steyn from UFS contributed to the day’s theme with vibrant presentations. Mkandawire spoke of the functionality of hand pump boreholes in Malawi, noting that a 2016 study that surveyed 200 hand pump boreholes found that only 74% of them were functional at any one point. Steyn presented findings from her study that looked at quantifying long-term water quality of mine waste drainage through the use of geochemical modelling

Western Cape Provincial Department of Public Works (South Africa)

“Most interventions undertaken by the Western Cape Government are permanent and have been designed to improve the resilience of the WCG to future water shocks and stresses.”

“Climate change is a reality, these negative effects are clear, with less annual rainfall against a background of higher average temperatures and greater evaporation of surface water.”

“The crisis is coupled by escalating water demand attributed to rapid urbanisation and growing populations, which indicates a significant future water supply challenge.”

“The strategy used in the Western Cape, the Water BCP Programme, which has a strong focus on groundwater, is water resilient.”

“Resilience means capacitating business to survive, adapt and grow in the face of turbulent change and complexity.”

University of Malawi

“Functional hand-pump boreholes in these districts is an indication that the widely used groundwater resource is accessible at any given point to those who need it. The results give a good indication of our progress on achieving universal access to safe and reliable water for all by 2030, especially in the African continent.”

“Hand-pump boreholes, other than being the most economical and simple solutions for providing a collective supply of drinking water in rural areas, they also help to eliminate the risks of people, and children
in particular, falling into open wells.”

University of the Free State

“The generation of large volumes of mine wastewater by South African mines have the potential to adversely affect groundwater, which is an already scarce water resource. It is essential to predict water quality post-mining, as well as properly manage the resource.”

British Geological Survey

“Resilience of groundwater supplies is determined by several factors including groundwater storage, long term recharge, permeability and the infrastructure put in place to abstract groundwater. On a large scale and for the medium timeframe, there is evidence that groundwater is resilient to climate change. But it is vital that we investigate how rural communities use water during droughts and investigate recharge processes and its links to land use, abstraction, geology and climate.”

The afternoon of day two resumed with a keynote address by British Geological Survey’s Professor Alan McDonald, entitled “Resilience of rural groundwater supplies to climate change.” Rural groundwater supplies appear to be resilient to climate change, especially in the case of boreholes with pumps. But continued monitoring of groundwater levels, as well as measuring the functionality of water points, are critical as these influence the resilience of the resource.

The presentations from four remaining speakers of day two of the conference all agreed on the need for training in groundwater resource management and governance for municipal employees and contractors. In this session, Emmanuel Kisendi from the University of Twente who presented results from his evaluation of groundwater resources in the Central Kalahari Karoo Basin, and Piet Kenabatho from the University of Botswana presented results of an assessment of the Stampriet Transboundary Aquifer System (STAS) and spoke of the need to promote groundwater cooperation in southern Africa through modeling.

Modreck Gomo presented on the methods to determine borehole sustainable yield, while his UFS counterpart, George Molaolwa gave a presentation that looked at the need for, and development of, a training manual for groundwater resource management and groundwater governance for Municipalities in South Africa.

University of Twente

“Groundwater resources evaluation is an important aspect of water resources’ management and this is optimally done through distributed numerical models. The development of a transient model to quantify aquifer storage and specific yield should be explored.”

University of the Botswana

“The Stampriet Transboundary Aquifer System joint governance mechanism is the first arrangement on transboundary aquifers since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2016. It is a breakthrough in many aspects.”

University of the Free State

“As a few direct established methods exist that determine sustainable borehole yield.
The administration of these tests ensures that groundwater experts are involved in operational phases and can save cost on unnecessary and unreliable once-off pumping tests.”


The SADC-GMI Gala Dinner was held to celebrate the 1st Annual SADC Groundwater Conference as well as to mark two years since the SADC-GMI’s launch on September 26, 2016. The Gala Dinner also allowed for a dedicated time to pause and honor the input of all stakeholders. The Gala Dinner began with James Sauramba, the Executive Director of the SADC-GMI, welcoming everyone to the event, and thanking them for making time to attend both the conference and dinner irrespective of their busy schedules. In his opening message, Sauramba voiced appreciation for the respect and gratitude shown to SADC-GMI, in spite of its only two years of operation. Following Sauramba’s short opening address, the attendees were given the opportunity for social interaction and networking, while simultaneously treated to tranquil music from a local band.

The evening also gave Sauramba the opportunity to give praise to every individual who contributed to the conference. More specifically, he gave a special thanks to the key note speakers, citing the effort they took to prepare their resounding key note speeches. To this end, Sauramba and the SADC-GMI, presented the key note speakers with gifts as tokens of appreciation.

The evening was capped by an award ceremony acknowledging the most promising young professionals presenting at the conference. According to the awards sponsors, the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), the awards were aimed at stimulating young professionals from SADC Member States to contribute to groundwater science, development and management. The awards were given to the best oral presentations of young professionals at the conference.

Ultimately, a panel of six experts from across the SADC Region scored the presentations. The awards had three categories: the Best Presenter for Subtheme 1 entitled “Promoting climate change resilience through transboundary aquifers (TBAs) management and conjunctive groundwater surface water management in the SADC-region”; the Best Presenter for Sub-theme 2 entitled “Towards an understanding of the impact of climate change on groundwater resources and exploring climate smart groundwater infrastructure options”; and the main award for the Best Promising Young Scientist.

The best presenter prize for sub theme 1 was handed to Christina Fraser, a PhD research student from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Fraser’s winning presentation spoke of a resource-light assessment methodology used to explore Malawi’s TBAs.

Albie Steyn, an MSc student at the University of the Free State in South Africa won two prizes — one for the Best Presenter for Sub-theme 2 and also the award for the Most Promising Young Scientist. Steyn’s presentation looked at quantifying long-term water quality of mine waste drainage through the use of geochemical modeling.

Steyn’s reward for winning the Most Promising Young Scientist award was an offer to attend the 19th WaterNet/WARFSA/GWP-SA Symposium held in Livingstone, Zambia from October 31 to November 2, 2018 under the theme “Integrated Water Resources Development and Management: Managing Water for the Future in a Changing Environment in Eastern and Southern Africa”.


The final day of the conference commenced with keynote speaker Dr Callist Tindimugaya, Head of Department for Water Resources
Planning and Regulation at the Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment. The opening keynote address on a paper entitled
“Groundwater and African National Development Strategies” looked at how groundwater can and should fit on African National
Development Strategies, especially when the resource “is poised to play a key role in Africa’s transformation.”

Dr Tindimugaya noted that over two-thirds of African nations have made specific reference to groundwater within their National Growth
and Poverty Reduction Strategies. Despite this, the use of groundwater has not predominately featured in public discourse. As a result,
the role of groundwater is still not well appreciated in most of the African countries.

Department for Water Resources Planning and Regulation (Uganda)

“Almost every African nation has made specific reference to groundwater within their National Growth and
Poverty Reduction Strategies, this includes all SADC countries.”

“It is therefore important to get the key players to appreciate that a strong connection exists between groundwater and Africa’s politically-owned agenda of national development, inclusive growth and poverty reduction.”

“Research links to poverty can evolve from conceptual frameworks towards the actual political commitments to use groundwater towards poverty reduction in Africa.”


The session was chaired by Zione Uka, of the Department of Water Development in Malawi. The session comprised of four presentations:

  • Anita Lazurko of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
  • Traci Reddy of Pegasys
  • Arnaud Sterckx of the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC)
  • Geert-Jan Nijsten of the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC)

The presentations all looked at groundwater management, including managing groundwater data and were followed by a panel discussion.

Dr Arnaud Sterckx and Geert-Jan Nijsten presented on the Capacity Building on Groundwater Data Collection and Management for SADC Member States (SADCGroundwater DataCoM) project. Dr Sterckx spoke of the gaps in groundwater data collection and management among Member States, while Nijsten presented on the development of a SADC framework for groundwater data collection and management. All these presentations underscored the significance of properly managing groundwater and how essential it is to have the right data.

International Water Management Institute

“Issues about water security, resilience and climate change make conjunctive management of water necessary. There’s opportunity to take major steps forward in conjunctive transboundary water management and to produce lessons learned.”


“The generation of large volumes of mine wastewater by South African mines have the potential to adversely affect groundwater, which is an already scarce water resource. It is essential to predict water quality post-mining, as well as
properly manage the resource.”

International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre

“The gaps in SADC groundwater data are impacted by insufficient budget, a lack of a coherent strategy, poor quality assurance and difficulties with data storage and sharing.”

International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre

“The SADC framework for groundwater data collection and management is an idea motivated by research findings which has indicated that national groundwater monitoring activities in the SADC countries lack clear objectives and technical procedures for consistent data collection”

“The framework is primarily designed to provide guidelines for developing, and implementing effective and efficient groundwater data
collection and or groundwater monitoring programmes.”


The session was closed by a panel discussion on ‘Groundwater Data Collection and Management in SADC Member States’ organised by IGRAC. The discussion, hosted by Zione Uka, included expert panellists – Zacharia Maswuma, Frank Ngoma, Cyril Masamba, Mwanamkuu Mwanyika, and Ana Isabel Fotine Mponda. The experts discussed groundwater data collection and management in SADC.

Key topics included:

  • How to think about the challenges of data scarcity and lack of access to reliable data?
  • Key impediments to improving groundwater data collection and management.
  • Possible ways to best address these challenges.

The panellists agreed that the challenge of poor and non-reliable data was not limited to one or a few countries, but affected SADC as a whole.

Department of Water and
Sanitation (South Africa)

“You cannot manage what you cannot
measure, thus data is the foundation for
everything with regards to groundwater

“The accuracy of the data is very important as the same data informs decision makers.”
“Water monitoring networks in South Africa
are mostly situated in farms, which presents a challenge to access them.”

“The water monitoring networks are at times
vandalised. To prevent this, it is important to
empower local citizens with skills, and other
incentives so they can willingly safeguard the equipment.”

Department of Water Affairs
(Democratic Republic of the Congo)

“There is a big issue pertaining accessing data that is valid, and at times this comes at a cost.”

“There are also issues with meters that allow
for studying the quantity of water used in the

SADC Secretariat

“The SADC water protocol’s challenge is on
watercourse systems.”

“The protocol does embrace both surface and groundwater, but when it comes to specifications, the protocol does not explicitly touch on the data types of groundwater.”

“The protocol is robust when it comes to
cooperation between Member States.”


To sum up the conference, a roundtable discussion was held on the key takeaway messages from the conference, as well as a way forward facilitated by SADC-GMI’s Executive, James Sauramba.

Key to this messaging was the significance of groundwater, since the resource is widely used in the SADC Region. It called for African Union states to treat the resource with the seriousness it deserves, similar to how surface water is treated. The need for increased investment on groundwater was highlighted, as well as the need for knowledge sharing and data collection.

A need for more capacity building related to groundwater was also raised, as well as the opportunities for better capitalising on the economic value of groundwater.


The SADC-GMI held its 1st Groundwater Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, from the 26th to the 28th of September 2018, under the theme “Adapting to Climate Change in the SADC Region through Water Security – A focus on Groundwater”. The conference was attended by 123 groundwater practitioners, researchers and decision-makers, deliberating on the role of groundwater in enhancing water security and resilience in SADC under the pressures of climate change and human development.

The conference notes that the 7th Africa Water Week has been held from the 29th of October to the 2nd of November 2018 in Libreville, Gabon, convened by the AMCOW in conjunction with the AUC under the theme “Toward Achieving Water Security and Safely Managed Sanitation for Africa”. We, the participants, have the following key messages to inform deliberations following Libreville:

  1. Groundwater supplies in many cities and rural communities in Africa. About 75% of the African population depends on groundwater for drinking. It contributes to health through improved sanitation and hygiene. It is also used for irrigation and livestock farming and supplies industries supporting food production and economic development on the continent. In addition, groundwater supports several ecosystems that have cultural and economic value. Groundwater for productive uses fundamentally hinges on energy for pumping. Solar energy access for farmers can greatly enhance the pressure on groundwater resources and needs to be carefully developed. We call upon African States to meaningfully include groundwater in water management plans and, more generally, in socio-economic development strategies, considering the WEF nexus.
  2. Groundwater is more resilient to climate change than surface water. It is poised to play an increasing role in adaptation and mitigation strategies. Population and economic growth will also increase the pressure on this resource. We call upon African states to proactively include groundwater in climate change and adaptation strategies to enhance the long-term resilience of cities and communities.
  3. Given the importance of groundwater in coping with water scarcity challenges brought about by climate change, there is a need to develop regional groundwater assessment and exploration strategies, which will also identify priority transboundary aquifers for sustainable development. This is in response to the fact that, in contrast to surface water, groundwater remains invisible to policy makers because of lack of information.
  4. Successful conjunctive use and management of groundwater and surface water resources at national and transboundary level should be supported by science-based evidence from research, capacity building and an enabling policy, legal and institutional framework. The vulnerability of African cities to drought has necessitated a rethink about water resilience and conjunctive use of water resources. Decision-makers in African cities are encouraged to broaden the water supply mix to include urban stormwater, treated waste water, desalinated water and groundwater. 
  5. The implementation of MAR schemes has been successfully implemented in several African countries and it has proved to be a sustainable solution to water management in a wide range of environmental and social contexts. We call upon AMCOW for the proactive implementation of MAR to enhance water security.
  6. 72 TBAs have been identified in Africa. They underlie 40% of the continent and it is estimated that 33% of the African population live on top of TBAs. There is a need to strengthen and develop institutions to promote transboundary aquifer cooperation, focusing on tangible water problems faced by African states. Transboundary groundwater monitoring infrastructure is required along with data sharing and harmonisation protocols. Several projects have been launched in the SADC region to foster the management of TBAs (e.g. Stampriet aquifer, Ramotswa aquifer, Shire aquifer). The lessons of these pilot projects can be extrapolated and applied across the rest of the continent.
  7. Experiences of TBA management in SADC show that transboundary organisations are instrumental in managing TBAs, such as L/RBOs and the SADC-GMI. We encourage L/RBOs and other transboundary organizations to support the management of TBAs.
  8. Among the United Nations SDGs, SDG 6 aims at ensuring water and sanitation for all. This SDG targets that by 2030, integrated water resources management is implemented at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation (SDG 6.5.2). We call upon AMCOW to support international cooperation amongst African States to develop instruments for TBA management contributing to Indicator 6.5.2.
  9. It is critical to recognize that groundwater issues arise at local, national and transboundary level. Countries need to identify appropriate scales for intervention and management, and ensure a nesting of scales and associated institutions, from local to international, in order to properly match resource investments with problems at hand and achieve successful outcomes. Also, African countries need to strengthen their capacity for groundwater management so as to enhance the success of transboundary cooperation.
  10. Sanitation and waste handling is closely linked to groundwater, with poor onsite sanitation and unplanned dumpsites being culprits of serious contamination, rendering groundwater unfit for use for extended times, up to generations. Significant co-benefits arise from proper land-use planning and recycling of waste. AMCOW and African states are urged to explicitly account for groundwater impacts in land-use, sanitation and waste handling strategies.
  11. Coastal aquifers present special challenges due to risk of seawater intrusion, which is already evident. Coastal cities and small island states in Africa need to carefully develop their groundwater resources, while also protecting them through MAR and augmenting water supply from secondary sources, like desalination and waste water reuse.
  12. Finally, AMCOW and African states are strongly encouraged to foster learning alliances, capacity development, knowledge-sharing and networking on groundwater at the continental and international level, through the support to learning institutions, specialised centres, and international exchange programs in order to fulfill their mandate on supporting sustainable water management in Africa.

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