First SADC-GMI Groundwater conference held in Johannesburg

Adapting to climate change in the SADC region through water security – A focus on groundwater

Groundwater experts agree that: Groundwater is key to navigating climate change in the SADC region.

The Southern African Development Community – Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) held a first-of-its-kind, three-day conference at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, on September 26-28, 2018. The theme for the conference was “Adapting to climate change in the SADC region through water security – A focus on groundwater”. Attending the conference were top groundwater experts, policy makers, government officials, young professionals and students to discuss how to future-proof the region from the impacts of climate change – focusing on groundwater resources.

A key aspect of this first conference dedicated to groundwater in the SADC region and led by SADC-GMI, is to provide a recurrent annual platform for water stakeholders to advance knowledge sharing on the sustainable management of groundwater at national and transboundary levels across SADC member states.

Groundwater is a critical factor for the future of the agricultural and industrial sectors as well as the rural community, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas where a large number of people depend on it. Groundwater is also a regional issue, as transboundary aquifers are shared between SADC member states. Therefore, cooperative and harmonized efforts on water are critical for peace and socioeconomic development in the SADC region.

The keynote speakers at the conference included Dr. Karen G. Villholth (International Water Management Institute [IWMI]), Prof. Jason Gurdak (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – International Hydrological Programme [UNESCO-IHP]), Dr. Roger Parsons (Parsons & Associates), Dhesigen Naidoo (Water Research Commission, South Africa), Dr. Callist Tindimugaya (International Association of Hydrogeologists [IAH]), Prof. Alan MacDonald (British Geological Survey [BGS], UK) and Gavin Kode (Western Cape Government, South Africa). Together, they led discussions on the importance and role in dealing with development, economic and environmental challenges in the SADC region.

Critical messages from the conference were:

  • There is a need for science to inform policy
  • Integration of groundwater management into River Basin Organizations’ institutional structures
  • Effective groundwater monitoring systems
  • Strong national structures in order to strengthen regional structures
  • Channel funding in the right direction to ensure sustainable groundwater management
  • Package groundwater messages correctly for different stakeholders
  • Share knowledge at national and regional levels

SADC representatives and groundwater spokespersons will carry forward the recommendations of the conference with the hope that they will be taken up by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) in conjunction with the African Union Commission at the upcoming 7th Africa Water Week meeting to be held from October 29 to November 2, 2018, in Libreville, Gabon. The theme of this meeting is “Toward achieving water security and safely managed sanitation for Africa”, and it is planned to have a major thrust on groundwater.

The Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) and several of its partners, including IWMI, International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), UNESCO-IHP, BGS, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Africa Groundwater Network (AGW-Net), IAH, Skat Consulting Limited and University of Strathclyde, were either co-organizers of the conference and/or contributed strongly to the scientific program.

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