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close this bookWater Management in Africa and the Middle East: Challenges (IDRC, 1996)
close this folderPart II - Subregional contributions
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View the documentStrain, Social and Environmental Consequences, and Water Management in the Most Stressed Water Systems in Africa
View the documentStrain, Water Demand, and Supply Directions in the most Stressed Water Systems of Eastern Africa
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View the documentImproving Water Supply Systems in Rural West and Central Africa

Strain, Social and Environmental Consequences, and Water Management in the Most Stressed Water Systems in Africa

George Khroda

Director, Research and Programs, REDPLAN Consultants, and Consultant for the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Nairobi, Kenya


Mean rainfall in Africa is about 670 mm, but there are great regional disparities. Although Africa has abundant water resources, they are spatially and temporally maldistributed because of variability of climate, topography, and geology. Of these factors, climate is probably the most important because the distribution of rainfall is determined by the wind system, topography, and pressure of large water bodies.

The heaviest rainfall occurs near the equator, especially in the region from the Niger Delta to the Zaire River basin and central Zaire. Along the coasts of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Madagascar, annual total rainfall exceeds 2 000 mm. Northward, rainfall decreases rapidly to about 250 mm at 18°N, except along the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, where the annual total ranges between 250 and 1 000 mm.

Rainfall distribution in the southern hemisphere is complex. Between the equator and the tropic of Capricorn, there is a north-south decrease, whereas farther south there is an east-west decrease (Fig. 1). Reliability also decreases, with variability of more than 40% in the deserts to less than 15% over the tropics. The humid tropics generally receive a lot of rainfall throughout the year, whereas the subtropical semi-arid regions experience marked rainfall seasonality and frequent droughts. The deserts are dry, and water is deficient throughout the year.

The semi-arid region is most affected by droughts because of its high population (about 30 million in 1985). The poor spatial distribution and temporal variability of natural resources in the region make small-scale, community-based, low- to medium-level technological approaches ineffective.

Major types of water systems

River systems

The climatic variability has an impact on the runoff characteristics of the continent. Although there is considerable runoff in tropical West and Central Africa, the overall runoff of the continent is lower than the runoff in North and Central America, which have a land area of only 80% of that of Africa. The high rate of evaporation, about 570 mm/year, reduces the effectiveness of rainfall and introduces marked seasonality in the river regime. River systems or basins constitute land area drained by a river and its tributaries and form a framework for understanding the inputs and outputs of the system.

Africa has nine major river basins - Nile, Congo, Zambezi, Okovango, Orange, Volta, Niger, Lake Chad, and Senegal - as well as small ones draining the east coast and discharging their waters into the Indian Ocean. Nearly all are international basins, some traversing more than eight countries.

Total river runoff amounts to 4.2 x 1012 m³/year, and total stable runoff is about 2.1 x 1012 m³/year (Endersen and Myhrstad 1987). Africa withdraws about 3% of its annual river flow, but the percentage going to countries north of the Sahara is high. Although the Congo Basin alone has more than 50% of the total river runoff, Africa would require only 0.5-1% of the stable runoff, or a maximum of 1.06 x 1010 m³/year, to adequately supply its entire population.

The main characteristic of the runoff is its seasonality, which makes harnessing water resources possible only through the use of reservoirs. Most of the reservoirs use capital-intensive means, requiring large amounts of foreign or donor assistance. Moreover, many reservoirs are situated in sparsely populated areas, thus increasing the cost of delivering water to inhabited regions.

Lakes and dams

Lakes and dams regulate the flow of running water. They are also receptacles of sediments and other pollutants. These sediments build up behind the dams and can quickly diminish the storage capacity of reservoirs, interrupt sediment for floodplain fertility, and disrupt the integrity of the delta lands.

The African lakes have a total volume of 30 567 km³, covering a surface area of 165 581 km². Lake Tanganyika alone could supply 400 million people in sub-Saharan Africa through the extraction of only 0.05% of its volume annually. All the lakes in Africa are international, shared by more than two countries, except Lake Tana in Ethiopia.

These lakes contain more aquatic biodiversity than any other lakes in the world. Lake Victoria has more than 300 endemic species; Lake Tanganyika, more than 140; and Lake Malawi, nearly 500 (Master 1990). Pollution, as well as misuse of the water, poses the greatest threat to this aquatic biodiversity.

The continent has 2.4% of the world’s large reservoirs (those more than 15 m high). Half of Africa’s are in South Africa. These multipurpose reservoirs were mainly designed for hydropower generation, although many are used for water supply, irrigation, industry, and domestic purposes.

However, the development of dams and reservoirs is currently fraught with environmental problems, such as high rates of siltation and evaporation, tropical diseases, weeds, and eutrophication. River water generally carries substantial amounts of suspended matter into lakes and reservoirs. Although these particles could be removed by presedimentation, followed by coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation and filtration, dams and reservoirs require huge capital outlays for construction, operation, and maintenance, sometimes far beyond the means of a single state. Moreover, the mineral constituents in lakes vary considerably, and some lakes, such as Turkana in Kenya, have salinities beyond acceptable limits and require demineralization.

Groundwater systems

Groundwater accounts for more than 95% of the Earth’s usable freshwater resources and plays important roles in maintaining soil moisture and streamflow and in sustaining wetlands. Groundwater has several advantages over surface water:

· It has natural protection against evaporation, especially in deep aquifers.
· It does not require storage.
· It can be developed on a small scale for rural and dispersed communities.
· It can be developed at low cost, especially in the case of shallow wells.

However, these benefits are experienced in states that have reliable groundwater recharge. The arid and semi-arid areas of the continent, therefore, are excluded.

Although groundwater is intricately related to surface-water resources through the hydrological cycle, its availability depends on climate, geology, and vegetation cover. Rainfall and geology determine the rate of recharge and are therefore responsible for sustainable supplies. Groundwater, on average, contributes approximately 30% of total runoff, although this proportion varies considerably within different geographical zones. For example, in arid and semi-arid areas, surface runoff is more than 90% of the total runoff.

The main hydrogeological formations (Fig. 2) are sedimentary basins, the crystalline basement-complex rocks, and volcanic formations. The sedimentary basins occur in the arid and semi-arid areas of Africa, the Sahara and the Kalahari. The Sahara basin alone holds more than km³ of water (Burdon 1977) and has high yields and 60 000water of good quality. Because recharge is poor, much of the water is fossilized and not sustainable. The groundwater resources appear to be rather more developed in Algeria, Libya, and Egypt, whereas the potentials of the Congo and Kalahari basins have yet to be explored.

The crystalline basement-complex rocks are less productive, but their importance is great because of their geographical distribution. The aquifers occur within the weathered residual overburden, usually about 15-30 m thick, and along fractures that typically extend downward some 60 m (Wright 1985). The rates of recharge vary considerably, although typical rates are 3-10% of the mean annual precipitation (Chilton and Smith-Carington 1984). The richest aquifers produce 12-15% of the total annual precipitation. However, the boreholes drilled in fractures may have very high yields during the wet seasons but generally dry up during long droughts.

The exploitation of regional aquifers, such as the Nubian sandstones covering Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and Chad, requires regional cooperation for standardizing data and information and for improving knowledge of the aquifer.

Water stress

A country whose renewable freshwater availability on an annual basis exceeds about 1 700 m³/person will suffer only occasional or local water problems. Below this threshold, countries begin to experience periodic or regular stress, a condition in which the annual availability of freshwater is 1 000-1 700 m³/person. When the annual availability of freshwater falls below l 000 m³/person, countries experience chronic water scarcity and the lack of water begins to hamper economic development and human health and well-being. When annual renewable freshwater supplies fall below 500 m³/person, countries experience absolute scarcity.

The annual renewable freshwater available declined from 20 000 m³/person in 1950 to about 10 000 m³/person in 1980. Renewable water, unlike nonrenewable water, is continuously renewed within reasonable time spans by the hydrologic cycle. The amount of renewable water available depends on its natural rate of recharge and the rate at which it is withdrawn for human needs.

There are abundant water resources available within the humid tropics. Figure 3 indicates countries in which water scarcity or stress will be predominant by 2 025. The areas mainly affected - subhumid tropical, arid, and semi-arid countries - are some of the world’s most disadvantaged countries (UNSO 1991).

Uses of water

When water supplies were plentiful and most rivers were unregulated, society considered water a free commodity. However, as demand rises, water uses begin to compete for limited supplies, and effective instruments for making rational decisions regarding water-use allocation become important. As demand rises even further, freshwater supplies become a less freely available commodity, as a result of shortage and degradation. As society places more demand on water resources and the cost of producing and delivering water increases, water becomes an economic commodity in socioeconomic development, just like capital and labour. Consequently, over the longer term, investments in water will compete with investments in other forms of production; allocation will be dependent on market forces; and subsidies will be difficult to justify.

There are many competing uses of water, including those for recreation, hydropower generation, navigation, and fisheries, domestic purposes, municipal and industrial supplies, and irrigation. It must be noted, however, that water as a resource must be culturally defined because water by itself is not productive: its use requires some minimum level of social infrastructure for it to be productive. Indeed, lack of such infrastructure is the main hindrance to water-resource management and effective water use in developing countries.

Municipal and rural domestic water supply

Although the United Nations (UN) International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1980-90) set out to supply 500 000 people with safe drinking water and sanitation, by 1993 more than half of the African population had neither safe drinking water nor sanitation. The variations from country to country were staggering. For example, in the urban water-supply sector, almost 80% of the urban households in Egypt received piped water, but only 7.2% received this in Burkina Faso. Water supply from public stand posts ranged from 2.3% in Madagascar to 59% in Botswana. Rural water supply was predominantly from community stand posts throughout Africa. The daily level of water-supply services also varied, from 15 L/person in Angola to about 270 L/person in Madagascar; in the rural areas, the average varied from 20 to 40 L/person.

The population of cities in Africa is growing by 6-9% per year, and the demand for increasing amounts of water can no longer be met by sources within the urban areas. Thus, unavailability of water, as well as heavy pollution of water sources in and around cities, has made basin transfers from distant locations inevitable. ln this respect, the cost of producing and delivering a unit of water to urban areas has not only escalated but has also taken water away from other competing users. Although many countries are expanding their urban water systems, rural areas continue to suffer from neglect. The conflict related to reallocating water from rural to urban areas is growing, but no mechanisms for solving such problems presently exist.


Africa’s agricultural potential is vast. Currently, only 24%, or 2.817 x 109 ha, of the arable land is under cultivation. About 68% of Africa’s economically active population is currently engaged in agriculture but contributes only 24% of the gross domestic product (GDP), although regional variations occur (World Resources Institute 1993).

Irrigation takes up 88% of the total water withdrawals but represents only 1.9% of the cultivated land in Africa (UNECA 1989). With the greatest part of African agriculture under rainfed crop farming, food insecurity is largely caused by variability of rainfall. Moreover, about one third of the continent has a mean annual rainfall of less than 700 mm, which is too little to support rainfed crop production.

From 1975 to 1979, Africa produced 83% of her cereal requirements and imported 8 x 106 t. However, it is estimated that by 2 000, the net import will have risen to 49 x 106 t, with only 56% produced locally. Because 53% of all irrigated land is under cereals, the importance of irrigation to obtain food security must not be underestimated.

The current emphasis on irrigation in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, and Somalia is aimed at rehabilitation and expansion of old schemes that have not made a sustained contribution to food security because of improper management. In Egypt, some efforts are being directed toward improving irrigation efficiency. Moreover, African countries involved in the Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel plan to bring nearly 1.0106under irrigation by 1998. The construction of Nanatali Dam on Senegal River will increase Senegal’s irrigable land by 400 000 ha, and Mali’s by 300 000 Egypt and Sudan will irrigate a further 2.0 x 106 ha in the Nile Valley, and 400 000will be irrigated in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.

In the dry areas of Africa, irrigation consumes 100 m³ of water per tonne of biomass produced (Falkenmark 1992). Increasing biomass production will deplete the amount of water available for other uses. Moreover, irrigation water is frequently used for growing rice and maize or for grazing pasture, which, compared with cotton or horticultural crops, have relatively low values, particularly because national food policies tend to subsidize the cultivation of such low-value crops. Only Botswana has considered the cost of irrigation water realistically and has decided that it cannot pursue the policy of self-sufficiency in food security.

Industry and mining

Industries require large amounts of water. The average consumption for industry in Africa is 5% of the water withdrawal, but the actual amount depends on the extent of the manufacturing and the type of industry. Textile and steel mills, canneries, tanneries, and breweries, which are predominant industries in Africa, are some of the heaviest water users. Except in food processing, about 80% of water used by industries is for cooling and cleansing and, therefore, often does not need to be of high quality.

More than 30% of the world’s mineral resources are in Africa. Open-cast methods of mineral extraction are prevalent. The expansion of mining activities in the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging region in South Africa, where 60% of industrial production is concentrated, has led to the development of transboundary water resources from rivers emerging from the Lesotho Highlands and the Komati River in Swaziland (Forster 1993). Further expansion of the water supply is planned for Tswasa and the Limpopo.

Sources of stress and stress indicators

Water is important in socioeconomic development. The presence or absence of water stress is, therefore, indicative of whether a nation has adequately or inadequately managed its resources, and failure manifests itself through acute water shortages and rising conflicts among the various water users.

Water problems may be grouped into two broad categories: those caused by contamination and those caused by overexploitation.

Contamination, especially of groundwater, is usually difficult to detect, and monitoring is costly, time consuming, and not always effective. The contamination is usually not detected until noxious substances appear in drinking-water supplies, as in the Bamako water supply in 1993 (Heidenreich 1993), at which point pollution has already dispersed over a large area. Evidence shows that freshwater quality is declining everywhere, with contaminants coming from agricultural, urban, and industrial land uses. The growing contribution of non-point sources of contaminants, such as fertilizers, pesticides, septic systems, street drainage, and air and surface-water pollution, has challenged known cleanup methods developed for large point sources.

Overexploitation of freshwater resources occurs in areas where there is scarcity. People are increasingly moving into areas of marginal productivity. Ideally, sustainable groundwater extraction must not be greater than recharge, if recharge occurs. However, in arid and semi-arid regions of Africa, more than 40% of the total groundwater is fossilized water. When average groundwater withdrawals exceed the average recharge rates for an extended period, aquifers become depleted, and the water table or water pressure begins to drop, which leads to the following:

· Shallow wells dry up.

· Production wells must be drilled to progressively greater depths, requiring more energy for pumping.

· Aquifers in coastal areas can become contaminated by saltwater intrusion.

· Subsurface materials may gradually compact and cause surface subsidence.

Diagnostic surveillance for risk assessment is only vaguely defined in Africa. There are no inventories of the sources and magnitude of pollutants or monitoring of pollutants. Simple technologies are currently used, although such methods require surveillance at the source; other methods include the use of a very narrow range of chemicals for domestic water supplies. Some are useful at the tap or source of distribution. The best surveillance methods to adopt will depend on the size of the basin and the type and extent of the pollution.

Long-term risks resulting from these water problems include

· water shortages, requiring expensive interim measures like developing new water sources or adapting sophisticated treatment measures;

· health hazards, such as exposure to pathogens, carcinogens, and nitrates;

· damaged ecosystems;

· structural damage and coastal flooding, as a result of land subsistence;

· economic and social hardships, especially affecting the rural poor; and

· political conflicts, diverting resources from productive investments.

Population growth

Africa’s population has more than doubled in three decades, from 220.3 million in 1950 to 470 million in 1980. Between 1981 and 1990, 110 million people were provided with safe drinking water, but the population increased by 140 million, thus diminishing progress during the UN International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade. Presently, 54% of the continent’s population does not have safe drinking water, and 64% has inadequate sanitation. Moreover, there is evidence to show that 80% of endemic disability is caused by waterborne diseases and that water scarcity and low incomes are related in many parts of Africa.

The effects of high rates of population growth on water-resource management are twofold. On the one hand, the cost of producing and delivering a unit quantity of water will be enormous just to keep the present levels of service, thus removing investment opportunities from other sectors of development. On the other hand, development along traditional lines will become ever more difficult as demand pressure on water grows, leaving less water on a per capita basis. Although there is no one-to-one relationship between population growth and higher water requirements, it is evident that with substantial increase in population, total water requirements for various uses will increase.

Human settlement

Urbanization greatly influences water quantity and quality because of runoff and sewerage. Land-use changes, such as impermeable surfaces replacing permeable ones, increase the volume, velocity, and temperature of urban runoff; reduce the base flow of rivers during dry periods; raise the temperature of urban streams; and concentrate pollutants. Untreated sewage, on the other hand, introduces large quantities of nutrients, pathogens, heavy metals, and synthetic organic chemicals into surface water.

In most African cities, sewage treatment is poor because the plants are old, technical knowledge is limited, operation and maintenance costs have escalated, and water standards are poor or nonexistent. About 95% of urban sewage is discharged into surface water without treatment. With about 2 x 106 t of unguarded and unmanaged solid waste generated every year (WRI 1993), bacteria, parasites, and viruses in water supplies remain a more serious threat than toxic contaminants. The problem of waste management is further aggravated by the development of unplanned slum settlements, some of which house about 50% of the urban population, as is the case in Nairobi.

A major sewage-treatment problem is the lack of separation of various wastes (household, industrial, and hazardous) that would facilitate recycling or reuse. In addition, there are thousands of poorly maintained or simply uncontrolled dumping sites, contributing significantly to contamination of local aquifers, lakes, and rivers. In Maputo, Mozambique, for example, nitrate contamination is far beyond World Health Organization (WHO) standards. The local authorities have neither sufficient funds, transport, and technical expertise nor the water-management infrastructures to deal with such solid waste in urban areas.

Industry and mining

Industry employs about 12% of the active population in Africa and contributes 36% of the GDP. Many African industries involve wet processing of agricultural commodities. Industrial pollutants include dust from smelting and metal processing; heavy-metal solutions used in plating, galvanizing, and pickling; metals and metal compounds used in paints, plastics, batteries, and tanning; and leachate from solid-waste dumps. Heavy metals and synthetic organic chemicals accumulate at higher levels of the food chain, thereby posing a special risk to humans and aquatic systems. Such pollutants increase the risk of cancer and reproductive anomalies in humans, fish, and aquatic mammals.

Although industrial sources of pollution in Africa are negligible compared with those in developed countries, the absence of standards and lack of monitoring make any form of industrial pollution significant. In many countries, highly toxic industrial waste and chemical-liquid wastes are discharged into municipal sewerage systems. Pretreatment of industrial effluent is generally nonexistent or insufficient for industries that use old technologies. Breweries, textile mills, and tanneries are everywhere, and they discharge wastes of relatively high loading, for which the organic removal efficiency decreases rapidly (Otieno and Kilani 1991). Similarly, mining and petroleum extraction pollute freshwater, either through discharge of brine or through leaching from mine tailings into the groundwater, and their impact is likely greater than that of manufacturing or processing.


Agriculture causes water stress both through use of water and through runoff of agricultural inputs. Because of the need to feed more people, forests and grasslands are converted into farmlands, often increasing soil erosion, sedimentation, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Frequent ploughing and excessive irrigation also pollute freshwater systems with sediments, salts, and pesticides.

Agriculture is responsible for 24% of the soil degradation in Africa; overgrazing, common among the pastoralists in the arid and semi-arid areas, contributes 49% (Ayoub 1993). Livestock grazing removes vegetation, compacts the soil, and generates large quantities of manure, although high-potential areas with abundant rainfall generally do not suffer much from overgrazing.

Diversion of irrigation water causes deterioration of water quality. Irrigation consumes a large proportion of the total water supply, although the volumes consumed vary slightly from country to country. Egypt, for example, uses 84% of its supply on irrigation for 95% of the country’s agricultural production. However, evaporation accounts for an additional 4% of water use, which generally is not taken into consideration. Such large water diversions create scarcity, distort the market for water, and raise issues of equity. Because the cost of water delivery is shared by all consumers, the consequence is that small consumers subsidize large ones.

In irrigated areas, the return flow and drained water can pollute freshwater by introducing fertilizers and pesticides that cause eutrophication and algal growth. Besides destroying habitats and reducing biological diversity through unfair competition of species, the pathogens transmit diseases to humans. In addition, excessive irrigation contributes to salinity and raises the water table, although the higher water table may be used for recharging groundwater, which in turn may improve or encourage conjunctive water use. In South Africa, the lower portions of major rivers, such as Modder, Rietz, Vaal at Douglas, and Orange, are at various stages of salinization as a result of irrigation and urban development (Herold and Kakebeeke 1991). No irrigation scheme in arid and semi-arid areas can be successful for long unless it has adequate drainage.

Land-use changes


Cutting trees mainly for fuel, building materials, and farmland and urban extensions is responsible for about 14% of soil degradation in Africa (Ayoub 1993). In West Africa, forests are disappearing at a rate of 2.1% per year, and in Central Africa, deforestation occurs at a rate of 0.6% per year, mainly as a result of the need to clear land for grazing. This deforestation leads to stream-bank erosion, stream sedimentation, and loss of habitat for a wide variety of organisms. In East Africa, increased sunlight, combined with nutrient enrichment in streams, is promoting growth of the filamentous algae favoured by schistosomiasis-carrying snails and of weeds that are threatening freshwater lakes. Deforestation also changes the hydrological cycle, especially the rate of rainfall infiltration and evaporation, soil moisture, and temperature conditions, although the magnitude of each of these changes depends on the nature of the new land use. Deforestation, therefore, has the potential to contribute to climate change.

Property rights

Ambiguous or nonexistent property rights constitute one of the main causes of land degradation in Africa. The semi-arid and arid areas are inhabited by pastoral groups that, over the years, have been grossly marginalized. The phenomenon is widespread and requires immediate attention so that desertification can be arrested and the impact of drought mitigated. Research should be focused on integrating land-water relationships, analyzing human impact on the hydrological cycle, and improving the efficiency of water uses.

Land-use planning

Land-use planning cannot be separated from the issues of water supply and the health of freshwater systems. Six phenomena provide the linkages between land and water:

· rainwater partitioning in the hydrological cycle;

· water’s mobility and capacity as a solvent (which, on the one hand, guarantees the effective transport of substances needed for life and stimulates both biotic and abiotic diversity and, on the other hand, spreads pollution and causes the deterioration of water quality);

· societal use (which always results in the return of water used for industry, agriculture, and households to natural systems, carrying with it a load of pollutants);

· water’s erosive capacity;

· soil fertility; and

· pore water in soil (which links soil drainage and groundwater decrease with the soil cover and land surface).

Currently, these links between water resources and socioeconomic development are at best vaguely understood. In most cases, water development, rather than management, is emphasized; environmental degradation is not integrated into water-resource planning; integrated riverbasin organizations are weak and highly politicized; and gaps between water users and water ministries are wide.

Drought and desertification

Drought, more than any other single factor, has caused food insecurity and water shortage. Major droughts occurred in the 19th century; the most dramatic one, in the 1980s, affected 20 countries and some 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. In Gambia, for example, drought reduced recharge of the groundwater, necessitating further deepening of wells. These wells then collapsed, aggravating the competition for water. Subsequent overuse of wells caused salt-water intrusion in those boreholes that survived the drought period.

Although research continues to decipher the climatic trend, people in high-risk areas must evolve a drought and disaster management strategy, establishing early-warning systems, strengthening institutions, and removing obstacles to the free movement of food. Early-warning systems have already been established in 30 countries, mainly along the Sudano-Sahelian zone and in East and Central Africa, with the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and of other bilateral aid agencies.


Natural occurrences (such as drought, desertification, and climate change) and human activities (such as agriculture, population growth, industrial development, and land-use changes) are causing untold pressure on freshwater resources. These pressures have caused both environmental deterioration (including pollution of freshwater systems) and overexploitation or deterioration of important water catchments, resulting in lowered groundwater levels. The magnitude and major cause of stress vary from one region to another. In North Africa, where the levels of irrigation and industrialization are high, water shortages appear to result from scarcity and overuse. In the Sahelian region and East and Central Africa, water scarcity appears to be due to drought. In southern Africa, water shortage is due to drought and overuse. Because many countries in northern and southern Africa have mineral resources and are fairly industrialized, their approaches to tackling water shortage will be different from those of the rest of the continent.

Water stress has several repercussions. Socially, human health is at risk, and water-related conflicts are imminent. Economically, the cost of producing and delivery of a unit quantity of water has escalated, thus diverting investments from other productive areas. Environmentally, sustainability of the ecological systems is threatened by overexploitation or pollution.

Some water-related problems are local, but others are regional. Most of the water systems in Africa that are able to endure marked seasonality in climate are international, whereas local water sources that are generally prone to drought are local. Because nearly two thirds of the continent is arid to semi-arid, poverty and insufficient agricultural production put pressure on freshwater management almost across the continent.

Each type of risk requires different assessment methods and solutions. A large proportion of Africa’s population is affected by domestic-water shortages. Although the source of drinking water is not always the same as that of industrial or irrigation water, there is a growing tendency to divert water from domestic use to industry or agriculture.

Responses to stress

International responses

Research and training

International organizations have played a major part in catalyzing development in the water-resource sector, creating awareness and focusing sharply on the problems and challenges in that sector by contributing funds; providing technical assistance and training; and facilitating research, networking, and information dissemination.

Enhanced awareness of the problems, challenges, and opportunities in the sector in Africa has been accomplished to some extent through international conferences, from which workshop proceedings, protocols, and binding statements have been produced. From these outputs, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and other UN agencies have assisted countries with follow-up. The Lagos Plan of Action provides one example of increased emphasis on water-sector issues.

Current freshwater research focuses on two key issues:

· the need to integrate population growth with sustainable water use (high rates of population growth are diminishing the impact of any successes that have been achieved); and

· the need to integrate land use with freshwater systems, thus liberating the water sector from structures that inhibit participation by resource users and the private sector.

Further elaboration of the catchment approach to water-resource planning is needed.

Current irrigation research focuses on system performance, water management, irrigation organization, institutional change and policies, farmers and the farming community, and the environment. The World Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, have funded the establishment of the International Program for Technology Research on Irrigation and Drainage (IPTRID). The mandate of IPTRID is to coordinate and focus research activities on the efficiency of water use in irrigation, the modernization of irrigation and drainage systems, and the improvement of maintenance technology. Also needed is research in biotechnology to isolate high-yielding crop varieties that consume less water.

National responses

Reallocation of water from irrigation to industry

Because irrigation consumes more than 80% of all the water, there may be an argument to be made for the reallocation of water to urban households and industry. However, government commitment to food security or, in some cases, lobbying by certain interest groups may make reallocation difficult. In general, African urban water supplies are better developed than rural ones, partly because urban areas are able to raise funds and reduce marginal costs. Urban areas also have adequate institutional structures, through local authorities.

One way to make the reallocation of water workable is to set the tariffs paid by agricultural users high enough to force them to conserve.

Population policy

Population mobility and rural-urban dynamics are affected by national policies on rural development, land tenure, and equitable sharing of resources. Rural development is important because more than 80% of Africa’s population lives in rural areas that are poor and lack infrastructure and employment opportunities. The issue of land tenure is problematic in much of sub-Saharan Africa. The poorest, marginalized farmers have often been forced to sell fields to bolster their incomes and have subsequently had no choice but to overfarm their remaining land, thereby contributing to ecological degradation. Newly landless farmers, on the other hand, migrate to the urban centres and swell the ranks of the unemployed there. Security of tenure is fundamental to achieving rational use of water in the wider context.

There is a need for a national population policy that takes into account available freshwater resources and the rate at which such resources may be developed. In addition, priorities must be defined to target specific populations for increased water activity. At present, it seems expedient to target poor rural people, small-scale entrepreneurs, and minorities.

Methods to improve efficiency and reduce water losses

Different methods have been adopted to improve efficiency. For example, in Conakry, Guinea, 50% of the water pumped in 1988 was unaccounted for, and only 10% of the bills were collected. Today, only 25% of the water is lost, and 85% of bills are paid. In LomTogo, only 20% of the water is now unaccounted for, almost all bills are collected, and water subsidies are not required. This efficient management is attributed primarily to the commitment and job satisfaction of the employees. Although water management in Conakry is undertaken by a private company, whereas that in Loms undertaken by a public utility, in both cases there is suitable environment for efficiency, as the companies have streamlined their operations.

Water systems have tended to operate more efficiently if the responsibility for daily operations and that for capital investments are kept separate. Such is the case in Guinea, where 51% of the company is privately owned and the remaining 49% of the stock is held by a parastatal, which supervises investments. By keeping the two functions separate, there is less likelihood of corruption. The parastatal is autonomous and, therefore, does not depend on subsidies. However, there is no guarantee that these measures will always bring the benefit of efficient management.

Water-resource planning

Planning requires adequate information for understanding both the hydrologic systems on which water-resource management is built and the nature of the interactions between the natural and the socioeconomic systems. Collection of data on the quantity and quality of water resources, on the demands and supply, and on conservation measures is essential for proper management. African countries were drawn into hydrological networks in the 1960s and 1970s, through international cooperation, and the information gathered improved the rational use of water resources. However, current challenges associated with the dynamics of socioeconomic development, including budget deficits, reduced government spending, inflation, and increased price for raw materials, have caused deterioration of these hydrometeorlogical networks. Programs for monitoring sediment discharge, pollution control, and water usage have become inadequate or are in disuse. Currently, only 20 African countries have some kind of integrated environmental-management plan. In many cases, such plans are used as shopping lists for donor investments, and there is little actual implementation.

Community responses

Involvement of consumers

Participatory approaches to water-resource management require consumers to play a part in the decision-making process. Consumers who know the status of the resource and are informed about the limitations of their actions will make rational decisions. Emphasis on natural-resource management is thus being devolved to local communities and authorities. The process is slow, but it is expected to become more popular.

Water-management issues

Water policy

African nations are aware that water scarcity is a problem. Most countries have a ministry of water affairs and a parastatal dealing with commercial water supply. In addition, there are usually several institutions dealing with water supply and related issues, such as waste management and health. However, the mandates of these diverse institutions tend to be fragmented and unclear, and linkages among them are weak. Only Morocco has a central water board with a mandate to formulate policy.

A national water policy can chart a clear direction and provide the necessary linkages between the water sector and critical areas of the economy, including health, agriculture, sanitation, and rural development. This would eliminate conflicting priorities that otherwise may exert unnecessary pressure on the resource.

There are several levels at which a national water policy can be enacted. At the highest level is the overall water policy, such as exists, for example, in Botswana and Morocco. The necessary instruments to support the policy are those that define water use; institutional responsibilities and coordination; issuance of permits for water abstraction and use; treatment of effluent and its safe discharge; groundwater exploration; water abstraction and use; tariffs; population and water use; water and health; the role of women and popular participation; wetland and aquatic ecosystems; international water courses and regional cooperation; and training and registration of water scientists.

In general, national water policies are almost nonexistent in Africa, but where they do exist, they are weak, poorly stated, or unimplemented. In other cases, personnel may be unmotivated and poorly trained.


All African countries have laws that require permits or licences for abstracting water from either surface or groundwater sources and for discharging waste or effluent into a water body. However, these laws are often inadequate for the following reasons:

· Legislation governing rational use and management of water resources is scattered in various enactments, and responsibilities for implementation and monitoring are also scattered in various government departments.

· Complementing institutions are poorly organized and have no resources for monitoring, policing, and punishment of offenders; field and laboratory equipment and logistical support are lacking; and human resources are unmotivated.

· Rules and regulations have not been elaborated to provide a firm basis for applying the laws.

· Appropriate quality standards have not been set for effluent discharges.

· Penalties for offenders are lenient and constitute an inadequate deterrent.

Botswana is one country that revised its entire water law in 1990. Its experience suggests that satisfactory legislation depends on the prior definition of a water policy, and the success or failure of the legislation must be measured by the extent to which it succeeds in helping to fulfill the objectives of the water policy. A framework of integrated land and water management is needed to ensure harmonious allocation and development of water and land resources, both for increased supply and for agriculture, forestry, recreation, and urban and industrial development. In turn, integrated land and water planning based on an agreed water policy with a sustained long-term strategy should be integrated with overall socioeconomic planning, taking into account population growth and national needs and aspirations. Such policies and legislation require public consensus and political commitment.

Development of human resources

Training institutions in Africa and elsewhere have produced many water scientists and administrators, but the shortage of skilled human resources remains serious. Many trained Africans seek better opportunities elsewhere. A 1988 UN report indicated that there were about 70 000 African professionals working outside the continent; at the same time, about 80 000 expatriates worked in Africa.

Most countries have gone through educational reforms since independence. To meet human-resource needs of the new nation-states, educational institutions were expanded in scope and coverage. In addition, there has been constant exchange of technical training and expertise, not only among African countries but also between these and developed countries. However, since the early 1980s, the level of spending on education has been going down in many countries.

Human-resource-development policies need to be strengthened to ensure more effective use of trained personnel and improved employment conditions. Many countries in the region are reforming their civil service to prune the workforce and reward productive workers. However, the results of these reforms will take time.

Demand management

Demand management encompasses mechanisms by which water is allocated efficiently to different user groups. This requires that the rules and regulations governing allocations be known. Cost recovery and tariff policies should take into account expenditure investment, operation and maintenance, system expansion and replacement, and return on investment. In countries where the state dominates the water sector, policies must also take into account potentially adverse effects on the poor and disadvantaged sectors of the population.

This concept is particularly relevant in societies with scarce water resources, where choices about allocation may preclude opportunities for some people. This concept may also be used to increase awareness of the need to harness scarce and vulnerable water resources. It provides a means of attaching value to water and estimating how alternatives may facilitate or hamper the achievement of desired objectives.

Price mechanisms

Although water has traditionally been considered a common good, shortages have occurred and the cost of getting water from alternative sources has increased, so its value has gone up. At the same time, there has been reduced investment in water infrastructure in developing countries. However, external funding for water projects has increased or remained constant over the past decades, thereby giving a false value to water as a resource. Disbursements from the UN increased from 31 million United States dollars (USD) in 1973 to 184 million USD in 1985, representing an annual growth of 16.9%. The highest rate of growth was in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, where 50% of disbursements went to drinking-water supply and sanitation and 24% went to irrigation. Loans and credits for water projects from the World Bank-International Development Agency and the International Fund for Agricultural Development increased from 504 million USD in 1976 to 1 748 million USD in 1985. Of the total disbursements of almost 11 billion USD over the period 1976-85, 54.6% went to agriculture; 28.7%, to drinking-water supply and sanitation; 15.4%, to hydropower; and 1.3%, to navigation. Loans for irrigation were mainly made to the countries north of the Sahara with proven irrigation cultures, whereas loan disbursements for water supply were mainly for urban water, thereby explaining the disparity in service between urban and rural areas.

In the early 1980s, an analysis of the tariff policies of 31 African countries showed that 28 had one-tariff policies for urban and rural areas. For the urban areas, 18% of the countries had policies aimed at full-cost recovery; 75% had tariffs partially covering cost; and 7% did not impose any tariff at all. Absence of cost-recovery measures meant that 82% of the countries’ urban water systems relied on the central government to subsidize their operation and maintenance costs. For the rural areas, all countries charged some tariff, but 46% charged tariffs that covered only part of the operation and maintenance costs. The implications were as follows:

· Almost all rural water systems depended on central-government revenue to meet their operation and maintenance costs.

· Even where such subsidies existed, they were inadequate, and there was a need for upward revision to cover mounting costs of producing and delivering water.

· It was not clearly defined what costs the tariffs covered-investments, operation and maintenance, system expansion, plant renewals, or various combinations of these.

· The subsidies were established without targeting the disadvantaged segments of society.

There are many opposing views about pricing water. Politicians often argue that water must be cheap to ensure that the poor have access to it. Frequently, the poor do not benefit from low tariffs, partly because they lack water connections and they usually buy water from vendors at prices 10 times more per litre than those paid by people with household connections. High-income groups tend to benefit from low tariffs. Moreover, when water charges are low, people tend to use it carelessly. The poorest segment of the population consumes 15-20 L/person per day, compared with the 50-125 L/person per day consumed by the wealthier people with direct connections to water systems. Under these conditions, the poor inadvertently subsidize the wealthy because funds needed to cover water-company deficits are shifted from other social programs, such as education and health, which might otherwise benefit the poor.

The cost of production and delivery of a unit quantity of water includes initial investment, operation, and maintenance costs. The price of water or tariff charged to consumers should include costs plus interest on capital, depreciation, expansion, and return on assets. Using this framework, one can cost each new system that is built and then establish appropriate tariffs. Alternatively, costs incurred in setting up new systems can be added to costs of existing ones, for a method of average costing and pricing. Either method has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the political situation, rural-urban balance, and the established institutions that provide water and sanitation services.

However, the costing and pricing of water do not take into account the willingness to pay. The willingness to pay depends on the beneficiaries’ perception but does not necessarily go with the ability to pay, which depends on income. The World Bank estimates that the cost of water should not exceed 5-6% of the incomes of the poorest households. This puts a ceiling on whom may be charged a particular tariff. Recently, as a result of inflation and depreciation of local currencies, the cost of production and delivery of water has increased considerably, thus aggravating the problem of cost recovery.

The problem of cost recovery in water supply must be approached from an integrated planning framework that combines three considerations:

· the need to supply basic needs at affordable costs, sufficient for the maintenance of public health and appropriate social dignity;

· the need to recognize the market imperfections resulting from the behaviour of consumers who are either insulated from price mechanisms or not provided with public education on the cost implications of certain water-use habits; and

· savings that can be achieved from improved water control in the reticulation system (accepting some reduction in reliability of supply at times of water shortage).

· However, there are no data to quantify price elasticities of water demand.

Options for improving water supply

Several attempts have been made to respond to increasing demand for water. In the past, the tendency has been to increase supply in line with demand. However, caution has to be exercised to limit the amount of water being extracted. The repercussions of responding to demand elasticity, or continuing to provide water in proportion to population growth and other factors without restraint, could have irreversible effects. Whatever limited success could be achieved in arresting apparent problems would also cause severe economic and environmental damage.

Reduction of environmental effects

The notion that prevention is better than cure is generally considered the least expensive and most advisable approach to maintaining water quality. Traditional end-of-pipe waste-management strategies, based on cleaning up water sources and fining offenders, can be combined with tighter government regulations and economic incentives. Two options open to polluters include reducing the volume and toxicity of wastes by recycling; and redesigning processes and products. Institutions that undertake waste-reduction programs often save money by using materials and energy more efficiently or by reducing the costs of conventional pollution control and waste disposal. Transnational companies that operate in Africa can often obtain appropriate technologies for waste reduction from their headquarters in the industrialized countries. However, lack of appropriate legal and economic instruments have hindered progress in this area.

Clear policy instruments are also needed to control runoff pollution. Soil-conserving agricultural and forestry practices, road management, land-surface roughening, and redesigned streets in urban centres are some land-management techniques that can reduce pollution in runoff areas. Improved agricultural management can considerably reduce runoff containing pesticides, fertilizers, and sediments. Other harmful forms of runoff can come from livestock farms and logging areas. Enhanced management activities might include the creation of buffer zones along the riverbanks, dams, and lakes, the use of pretreatment ponds, and the introduction of the biological control of pests. These could reduce the agrochemicals discharged into the water systems.

Various economic incentives or disincentives can also be aimed at waste reduction. These include increasing the taxes on pesticides and fertilizers, increasing the fees for irrigation water, and removing the production subsidies. Production-tax rebates to encourage clean technologies and waste processing, subsidies to encourage environmentally friendly activities, and user charges for municipal-waste collection to encourage waste separation and recycling are some of the many economic incentives that countries may adopt. Unfortunately, poor communication among scientists, planners, and politicians is responsible for the lack of understanding of the potential benefits of such economic instruments.

Pollution-permit trading has been introduced in the United States as a means of reducing pollution. Under this system, the government issues a fixed number of pollution permits, which are then bought and sold at market prices by firms. This can be feasibly applied to tanneries, abattoirs, canneries, and textile mills, some of which are the substantial polluters. However, fixed levels of permissible pollution must first be established by governments. In many countries, such pollution standards are nonexistent, monitoring mechanisms are very poor, and pollution regulations are impossible to enforce.

The goal of all these pollution-reduction activities is to improve the quality of decision-making in integrated water-resource management. It will be possible to take full advantage of the water-reuse option only when it is economically, socially, and politically feasible.

Use of marginal water and reuse of wastewater

Even when the most economical state-of-the-art methods are used for cleaning wastewater, only 80-95% of harmful materials are removed. This still leaves 5-20% of the stable pollutants in the water. However, different uses or reuses may be made of low-quality water. Simple technologies exist to reclaim wastewater for reuse. For example, treating sewage in wetland and fish ponds offers tremendous potential for constructive wetland use. The only requirements in addition to those of traditional wastewater treatment are land and alternative uses for reclaimed water. In Algeria and Tunisia, drainage water from irrigated fields is already being recovered and reused in irrigation systems, and in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco, UNDP has pilot projects to study the technical, economic, and social feasibility of using treated wastewater.

Within Africa’s growing cities, great quantities of water will be used and discharged into the environment. Greater Cairo generated 0.9 x 109 m³ of wastewater in 1990, for example; this is expected to increase to 1.93 x 109 m³ by 2010. Similarly, Morocco and Tunisia will discharge 555 x 106 and 227 x 106 m³ of wastewater, respectively, by 2000, and all the urban centres in Botswana combined will produce 66.4 x 106 m³ of wastewater by 2020 (CEP 1993).

The level of wastewater recycling in Africa is very low: Zimbabwe and Namibia, for example, recycle only 10-25% of their effluent (CEP 1993). However, wastewater is starting to be used for irrigation and aquaculture. In Tunisia, about 3000 ha has been irrigated, under controlled conditions, with secondary-treatment wastewater effluent; this uses about 7 x 106 m³ of treated effluent per year. Tunisia’s stated policy (like Botswana’s) is to achieve 100% reuse, and its ultimate goal for 2010 is to irrigate 30 000 ha with treated wastewater. Wastewater is also used to irrigate the greenbelt around Khartoum, Sudan, and 1 000 ha of Egyptian farmland.

UNDP is supporting research on wastewater reuse to develop treatment strategies that improve the cost effectiveness of reuse and provide systematic quantitative evaluation of the costs of water supply, treatment, and disposal.

Wastewater reuse, especially around major cities, has three advantages:

· creation of a new water resource at the local level that could be used without significant negative impact on the environment;

· decrease in the cost of treatment and disposal of wastewater; and

· generation of additional revenue through the sale of treated wastewater and sludge to farmers to cover the cost of treatment and disposal.

Morocco and Tunisia, for example, charge farmers fees for using reclaimed wastewater (Khouri 1989).

Desalinization of seawater

Desalinization of seawater, a capital- and energy-intensive source of freshwater, is growing in importance in oil-rich countries. The number of desalinization plants worldwide increased throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Production capacity since 1970 has increased roughly 13-fold, from 13.3 x 106 m³/d to 18.7106179;/d (WRI 1992-93). The distilling process and the reverse-osmosis method are used. Desalinization is still three to four times more expensive than conventional methods of obtaining freshwater. Some of the plants are also being used for treating effluent water or river water to obtain water for boilers. Both groundwater polluted by nitrates and pesticides and municipal water are treated to make ultrapure water for the electronics industry. Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco have desalinization plants.

Regional cooperation

Effective water management requires a broad plan for an entire riverbasin. Most river basins in Africa are shared by two or more countries. Cooperation in water-resource management needs to be pursued at two levels: (1) through comprehensive management of domestic supply and demand; and (2) through comprehensive regional planning and arrangements to import water from surplus countries to deficit countries. Competition and conflicts in water use generally emerge when there is lack of cooperation, leading to international tension. International law on shared freshwater resources is limited to ensuring that the activities of upstream nations do not conflict with those of downstream nations. The role of the Organization of African Unity in arbitrating water disputes is not clear. As a result, many downstream countries pursue their rights through diplomacy.

Regional treaties and protocols concerning water resources have been negotiated. There are 54 transboundary river-lake basins. Among these basins, only a handful-Senegal, Gambia, Niger, Chad, and Kagera-are overseen by some form of intergovernmental organization charged with the exclusive task of planning for integrated development of natural resources, energy, and other water-related infrastructures. But these organizations have suffered breakdowns from, for example, failure to apply the concept of multipurpose planning, lack of funding, institutional weakness, and poor governance.

Among the nine countries in the basin of the world’s longest river, the Nile, there are no agreements, nor is there any forum for negotiations on how its water should be shared. In the meantime, Ethiopia plans to divert 4 x 106 m³ of water from the Nile every year for irrigation schemes, with serious consequences expected for Egypt and Sudan. Similarly, Zimbabwe plans to divert water from the Zambezi River, which it shares with Zambia, Angola, Botswana, and Mozambique, without any consultation. It is possible that a joint management plan, the Zambezi Action Convention, drawn up by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), will reduce the risk of conflict.

The risks of new tensions and conflicts, especially in North Africa, are clear, and the need for cooperation and agreement on the use of water resources has never been greater. The strategy, therefore, must be to recognize the role of cooperation in harmonizing nations’ social- and economic-development strategies and instilling a sense of security among the member states. In the meantime, existing organizations must be strengthened, and new ones must be formed. Capacity-building and institutional arrangements are needed in these organizations to strengthen the planning units and improve policy and legal frameworks.

Community organizations and water supply

Although it is now accepted that community participation is essential for the success of any project, the water sector is still fraught with a heavy top-down approach. A central unit is essential for coordination of water policies, formulation of rules and regulations, and overall national planning, but this sometimes negatively affects the management of water resources at the grass-roots level. Ideally, implementation of projects, operation and maintenance of water activities, and management of water resources should be passed on to local communities.

Many African countries have completed or are on the verge of completing national water master plans, which will, through continuous updating, contain an inventory of existing water resources and their quality and quantity, including water supply, environmental problems, and rehabilitation needs. In addition, these countries have either national environmental action plans, national conservation strategies, or both to guide any analysis of water-related environmental issues. However, there are important barriers to community resource management.

The first of these barriers is the difficulty of devolving sufficient responsibilities for water management to local authorities and community institutions. Although a central policy-making body is required, water is extracted and used locally, so it is at the local level, primarily, where safeguards must be introduced. Decentralization, such as that undertaken in Botswana, needs to be planned on the basis of a complete drainage basin. One problem with a catchment approach is that the boundaries of the catchments and of the local authorities may not coincide. In many cases, various authorities will have to work together.

Another barrier to community resource management is the need to build the capacity of local authorities and local institutions to manage the resource. Trainees need “tool boxes” that describe visions and aims and explain how to set about planning and optimizing various parts of the development process. Regional and local decision-makers and officials also will need to be sensitized so that, with knowledge and vision, they will be inspired to act.

As physical planning and, to some extent, economic planning are being done at the regional-local level in many African countries, water-resource planning should also be carried out at that level. However, the local authorities may not have financial and jurisdictional powers over other sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, and mining; thus, the coordination of socioeconomic development required to maximize benefits from water-resource development is impaired. In addition, local authorities are known to lack financial resources to develop management issues fully. These barriers may be removed by clear water policies supported by encompassing laws.

To promote community participation, techniques that promote rational water use and management must be disseminated, and experience-sharing must be stimulated. Furthermore, research initiatives must seek to address the problems encountered by those who are affected and most concerned. The legal systems of most African countries need to recognize the various rural organizations and institutions that are ready to address local water needs and problems.

Water users’ associations are new to Africa. However, with the liberalization of political and economic structures, resource-user associations are beginning to emerge, with the aim of managing their own local natural resources. The best examples of such user associations are the community wildlife-management groups in Zimbabwe and Kenya. In Kenya, the Lake Naivasha Riparian Owners’ Association has been deliberating on land and water disputes since 1939. Presently, the association is involved in a three-phase study that will culminate in the formulation of an environmental-management plan.

Collaboration among communities, grass-roots institutions, and nongovernmental organizations is essential for improving the management of freshwater resources. Such collaboration also accelerates the sharing of experiences, knowledge, new ideas, and information between sector planners and practitioners.

Summary and recommendations

The availability of water resources in Africa is characterized by a striking paradox. On one hand, Africa contains many of the world’s largest rivers and freshwater lakes, evoking a picture of an abundance of water resources. On the other hand, the Sahara and Kalahari deserts are surrounded by large tracts of marginal lands with rainfall of less than 700 mm/year. The overall water scarcity is, therefore, due to low runoff, high evaporation rates, and threats associated with nature (drought and salinity) and humans (overuse and pollution). The threats from human activities are most important because they can be controlled by improving water-management strategies. The impact of the environmental factors may be reduced by deliberate reorganization of socioeconomic policies.

Population stabilization

The rate of population growth in sub-Saharan Africa is very high, and, as a result, increased demand for water obliterates any gains that may have been achieved through increased focus and funding. Suggested methods for augmenting supply and managing demand will have little effect unless the rate of population growth is reduced considerably, for which the following are recommendations:

1.vernments need to mobilize both domestic and foreign resources to prepare for the inevitable increases in population that will further strain their freshwater systems. It is imperative that water conservation be combined with population strategies.

2.nditions and strategies to help stabilize population growth and to achieve a sustainable balance between socioeconomic needs and available water resources should be instituted and encouraged. These include improved opportunities for women and better family-planning services.


Institutions and policies related to water-resource planning, development, and management are weak or absent in many sub-Saharan countries. In the past two decades, the problem of pollution from domestic, industrial, and agricultural sources has been growing. Industrial pollution is especially significant because of the absence of standards or a monitoring system. Several countries have problems with water loads contaminated by bacteria, organic matter, suspended solids, and nitrate pollutants. Expanding agriculture and associated increases in fertilizer and pesticide use are also a growing threat. Although many shallow groundwater resources appear to be contaminated by pathogenic agents, largely from fecal matter, there is no systematic water-quality monitoring system to regulate the problem. The negative impact of such uncontrolled contamination on the health of people is becoming more prevalent and visible, a problem for which the following are recommendations:

1.ter institutions must be strengthened and their mandates must be reviewed so that water-resource planning and development can be steered in an integrated manner.

2. integrated and multisectoral approach to water-resource management needs to be established.

Capacity-building and technical assistance

Human-resource development is a major constraint to proper planning, development, and management of water resources. The following are recommendations to improve human-resource development:

1.ucation and training programs on pollution control and hazardous-waste disposal need to be established, and existing ones need to be strengthened.

2.untries should be given support to improve their capacity to identify and quantify problems and their causes and to find solutions, as well as to gather information and identify strategies for surveillance, equipment, and human-resource development.

3.mmunity-based management institutions, such as water users’ associations, should be given support to manage freshwater resources.

Water policy and legislation

The following are recommendations to improve water policy and legislation:

1.tional water-resource committees or commissions should be established to set policy and priorities. country should establish a comprehensive national water policy.

3.iorities in water policy, such as community water supply, health assurance and sound environment, cost recovery, and use of wastewater, must all be covered by law, to give them sufficient weight. Water law, where it exists, should be updated to deal with current management issues.

Water-resource planning and management

Water-resource assessment and monitoring are inadequate in many countries, and water standards are absent. Many countries have not used the data from IDWSSD and other projects in drought-stricken areas of Africa. In addition, excessive pumping of aquifers has led to negative economic and environmental repercussions, and some of the damage is permanent. An added constraint on availability of water also results from natural causes, such as high temperatures, high rates of evaporation, and decreased rainfall. The following are recommendations to improve water-resource planning and management:

1.cause each water source has a dynamic personality, general rules on water-source management are impractical. The responsibility for planning and managing water resources should, therefore, be decentralized and left to the communities and their institutions.

2.feguards on freshwater management must be introduced at the local level.

International cooperation

The following are recommendations for facilitating international cooperation:

1.ternational organizations, in cooperation with UNEP and WHO, must establish water-quality standards, provide workable guidelines, and promote water-source protection at all levels. methodologies and stress indicators need to be developed.

3.ternational cooperation and institutional capacities to monitor and control transboundary movements of hazardous wastes must be promoted and strengthened.

Demand management

The following is a recommendation for improving demand management:

1.mand management, through water pricing, cost recovery, privatization, and community management, should be introduced.

Water-use efficiency and conservation

The following are recommendations to improve water-use efficiency and water conservation:

1.rategies for improved efficiency and water conservation must be instituted.

2.andards for water recycling and the use of water of marginal quality need to be established.

3.dalities for reallocation of water rights must be developed.

4.ternal and internal sources of funding need to be mobilized, and appropriate use of water-generated public funds need to be ensured, with emphasis on transparency and accountability.


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