Bertram John Swartz
Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry
Transboundary Water Management (TWM) have been focusing on surface sources mainly because of the visibility of the surface resource. However since surface and groundwater are usually hydrologically linked, the implications and approaches of IWRM (Integrated Water Resource Management) and TWM related to groundwater have been advancing.
To address increasing competition and the possibility of conflict between groundwater resources that transcend national borders, there exists the need for groundwater regulation in order to control groundwater development and activities that might compromise availability and quality of these particular aquifers.
The Stampriet Transboundary Aquifer System (STAS) is a large aquifer system situated in the southern part of the Kalahari and it is shared between Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The aquifer system is well representative of groundwater resources in hot semi-arid regions of Africa, where groundwater is the primary source of water. The problems that make groundwater regulation in the STAS area difficult include but are not limited to uncontrolled usage and ineffective water management.
The Namibian legislative framework on water resources and the management thereof (Water Resources Management Act (2013)) makes provision for control and protection of water resources from over-abstraction and pollution through a licensing system. Domestic policies, legal and institutional frameworks for groundwater management are in place for Namibia and there are various modalities on the control and protection of groundwater. Even though capable legal and institutional framework are in place, implementation of these regulations are not yet in operation.
The groundwater regulation in the STAS is enforced through various actions, e.g. the provision of groundwater monitoring through compliance checking. However through the IWRM plan and the legal framework a more encompassing approach for regulation of the groundwater and that is “Facilitating water-user and Stakeholder participation in groundwater/aquifer management”. This approach of groundwater management is more likely to succeed because stakeholders have a say and are actively involved. The establishment of a basin management committee (BMC) is instrumental for the management and regulation of the aquifer on the Namibian side of the border.
Groundwater is often considered to be one of the most mismanaged natural resources. And an area predominantly reliant on groundwater cannot afford to follow the norm where deficient management policies and fragmented water management institutions can have catastrophic results for the water resource. The effort to apply integrated water management in Namibia is in essence an attempt to put a stop to the fragmentation of water management policies and to integrate: upstream and downstream uses, land use planning, and water management. Water Law and Policy provides insights that can guide water development policies across national borders. This paper will look at the institutional and legal framework advancement for groundwater management, using the approach of facilitating water-user and stakeholder participation in the Namibian BMC context and the STAS.