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Case Study - Groundwater Governance in South Africa

Groundwater governance at national level 

Technical, legal and institutional and operational governance provisions are reasonable but weak for cross-sector policy coordination 

Institutional capacity is weak across all thematic areas except for the technical provisions. 

Groundwater governance at local level 

  • There is similarity in governance provisions for the dolomite aquifers across all thematic areas with the Steenkoppies dolomite aquifer consistently scoring higher 
  • Basic technical provisions such as hydrogeological maps and aquifer delineation with classified typology are in place for all case study aquifers 
  • Other governance provisions across all thematic areas are weak or non-existent 
  • Steenkoppies dolomite compartment scores highest; Bapsfontein dolomite compartment and Houdenbrak basement aquifer score lowest 
  • Groundwater monitoring is weak and assessment of groundwater  resources is poor, both in terms of quantity and quality (e.g. lack of numerical groundwater model) 
  • There are fair provisions for water well drilling and groundwater use rights but provisions to control groundwater abstraction and pollution are weak (poor compliance monitoring) 
  • Provisions for establishment of aquifer management organizations are weak or nonexistent 
  • Cross-sector policy coordination is weak
  • From an operational point of view, a  groundwater management action plan which includes both water quantity and water quality aspects only exists for the Botleng aquifer but has not been implemented to date 
  • Institutional capacity across all thematic areas is weak or non-existent except for the Steenkoppies dolomite aquifer where the situation is better. 

Climate change adaptation 

At national and local level, adaptation measures to climate change are not yet a consideration in planning. Only at the national level an artificial  groundwater recharge strategy was developed and awaits implementation. 

Recommended management measures 

Groundwater management measures are recommended at national level and at local level for each of the case study aquifers to address existing and potential hazards as well as to improve on the effectiveness of existing groundwater governance provisions and institutional capacity. 

Most critical are considered (i) the integration of the National Groundwater Strategy into the National Water Resource Strategy (NWRS), Catchment Management Strategies (CMSs) and other strategies, (ii) strengthening of the groundwater related regulatory environment and (iii) strengthening of the institutional capacity, both in terms of existing institutions (DWA) and establishment and operationalising of Catchment management Agencies (CMAs) and Water User Associations (WUAs). Regarding the inadequacy of groundwater expertise it is recommended for DWA to develop a strategy to augment national GW capacity. Furthermore, investigation and implementation of climate change adaptation measures at local aquifer level are recommended.