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(KSA 1) Water Resource Management

THRUST 5: Water Resources and climate

 Scope: Global environmental change, including climate change, has potential deleterious effects on systems, resources and society, and will be superimposed on currently existing stressors such as unsustainable use of water, deteriorating water quality, and land use and demographic changes in time and space.    Potential secondary impacts due to resultant lack of access to adequate water of acceptable quality are likely to also have undesirable impacts on economic growth, food security, health, ecosystem goods and services, as well as community livelihoods.  Consequently, adaptation aimed at reducing the country’s vulnerability to the currently highly variable climate, under natural conditions and due to human induced impacts, as well as to projected climate change impacts on water availability, is crucial. This thrust accordingly focuses on developing the understanding of global climate change and hydro-climatic variability impacts, crafting methodologies for vulnerability assessments and development of appropriate adaptation options and solutions at various scales. The focus is also on developing appropriate quantitative understanding, tools and strategies for managing the impacts of climate variability and change, as well as human interventions on the hydrological cycle and related water resources, with the aim of supporting the development of policy responses, at regional, national or catchment scale, to existing and emerging problems. This includes, but is not limited to, development of tools and systems (e.g. weather forecasts, model scenario projections or early preparedness) for among others, managing floods and droughts and the effects thereof on the resources and the people who rely on those resources, with special emphasis on water quality (e.g.  trophic waters) and quantity (due to increased evaporation rates and other) impacts.

Programme 1: Protective tools

Scope: The need to prepare the country to cope with global climate change and regional climate variability is of paramount and strategic importance. Taking the view that water is South Africa’s key resource implies the need to adapt water resource management progressively as global climate change progresses, in order to maintain optimal levels of both resource protection and beneficial use of water for society. The development of coping strategies will require the development of informed, quantitative scenarios of potential impacts, at regional and catchment level, on rainfall regimes and rainfall variability, hydrological and geohydrological regimes, water availability and reliability, water quality, ecosystem structure and functions and ecological processes. This programme will therefore focus on the following key issues:  select and use GCM-generated scenarios of global climate change of appropriate confidence level as a basis for development of model projections; improve techniques for downscaling of scenarios from global (GCMs) to regional and catchment scales to enable or support management at higher resolution scale and to ensure high level of reliability and robustness; improve on detection and attribution of anthropogenic impacts of climate change in the Southern African context in order to distinguish those from natural climate variability and change-related impacts.  The programme will also deal with: the choice of relevant and appropriate climate indicators and variables as well as monitoring systems that need to be in place in this regard; determination of the frequency and magnitude of resultant extreme rainfall and flow events; use of existing conceptual and numerical models to utilise global change-related, downscaled, hydro-climatic information effectively, to provide information regarding likely inter-related land-use, ecosystem, hydrological (including geohydrological), water yield and water quality changes at regional/catchment level; modification of existing management strategies and tools for adaptation purposes; determining the likely socio-economic impacts for a given structure of society in Southern Africa; and appropriate technological, social and political coping strategies. Other areas that will be attended to include: improving understanding of and forecasting of the variability of rainfall, flow and groundwater recharge, as the ability to forecast at very short time scales would greatly benefit flood management and disaster mitigation and adaptation activities; and improving the understanding of global climate change impacts and vulnerability for the purposes of better informing the nation on permanent changes of the climate which require long-term solutions and adaptation actions. Through this programme, support will be provided for weather and climate disaster mitigation programmes at various levels which will include regional, national and provincial as well as other, more localised, scales.

Programme 2: Climate change risk, vulnerability and adaptation

Scope: Climate change risk management seeks to promote sustainable development by reducing vulnerability associated with climate risks.  The approach involves a range of actions including reduction of vulnerabilities or enhancement of resilience amongst people and societies, protection of ecosystem goods and services, early response systems, strategic diversification, and improved institutional capacities. Climate adaptation refers to the ability of the system to adjust to climate change, variability or extreme to moderate potential damage or to cope with the consequences. This programme is aimed at reducing vulnerabilities among communities and people through development or implementation of systems, tools, approaches and strategies (some of which would have been developed under Programme 1, such as modification of structures or implementation of early preparedness programme for extreme events).  Protection or restoration of ecosystem goods and services that are vulnerable to climate variability and change as well as strengthening capacity of people and institutions are some of the techniques that will be investigated under this programme.  Climate risk management strategies to be developed under this programme also aim to maximise opportunities in climate-sensitive economic sectors, even under uncertain climatic conditions of high variability.   The programme could also deal with implementation of capacity building and awareness programmes including sharing of climate information as part of a broader adaptation programme.

Programme 3: Integrated flood and drought management

Scope: Flooding and drought are major natural hazards to human society and have important influences on social and economic development. The most vulnerable communities are often those who are poorly resourced since they barely have means to cope, and also often live in informal settlements notorious for being drought- or flood-prone with poor infrastructure. This programme focuses on research that will result in the development and implementation of integrated institutional frameworks and technological tools to reduce and combat floods and their negative effects, while enhancing positive flooding patterns that are important to the natural ecosystem. Research related to drought management will focus on integrated tools and strategies for early identification and mitigation of the social and economic impacts of drought, with the aim of supporting collaborative, multi-institutional processes and programmes.

Programme 4: Transboundary water resources

 Scope: This programme will provide tools and guidelines for resolving potential water-centred conflicts for the management of shared international rivers and transboundary aquifer systems, including development of appropriate institutional forms and functions, development and harmonisation of policy and regulation in shared river basins, strategies for knowledge-sharing and joint management of shared river basins. A need has been identified to define the roles and interrelationships between local WRM institutions and international basin organisations.

Programme 5: Future scenarios

Scope: This activity has been assigned a separate programme to ensure that local South African expertise is qualified to explore future scenarios and answer the ‘what if’ questions in support of reflection and evaluation of national policy applications. Projecting the water resource management and development institutional arrangements landscape 10 or 15 years from now would be of interest to decision makers to define policy reviews and enhance decision making. Further complexity can be added through the introduction of the water services institutions. Mapping of the processes for tariff setting between both water resources and water services could allow further investigation into service delivery affordability and efficacy. This programme is likely to employ a phased approach to adding more and more layers to the scenarios, and to enable scenarios to be customised for localised aspects that need not be of national interest.

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