CHAPTER 4: FRESHWATER

Lead Authors: Kevin Pietersen, Hans Beekman
Contributing Authors: Allali Abdelkader, Hesham Ghany, Alfred Opere, Eric Odada, Tenalem Ayenew, Dagnachew Legesse, Luc Sigha-Nkamdjou, Lekan Oyebande, Ahmed Abdelrehim

REGIONAL SYNTHESIS

The availability of and access to freshwater is an important determinant of patterns of economic growth and social development. This is particularly the case in Africa where most people live in rural areas and are still heavily dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Water is an essential resource for sustaining economic development in all sectors. Freshwater is a necessary input for industry and mining, hydropower generation, tourism, subsistence and commercial agriculture, fisheries and livestock production, and tourism. These activities are central to livelihoods and human well-being; they provide employment and contribute to national economies through, among other things, export earnings.

An Africa where
there is an equitable
and sustainable use
and management of
water resources for
poverty alleviation,
socioeconomic
development,
regional
cooperation, and
the environment.

Africa Water Vision
for 2025
(ECA and others 2000)

Water is not only an economic good but also a social good. Safe water supply and appropriate sanitation are the most essential components for a healthy and prosperous life. The provision of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities, to the rural and rapidly expanding urban populations, can reduce mortality rates related to water-borne and water-related diseases, such as cholera, diarrhoea and malaria.

Economic security and human well-being are dependent on the protection of this resource. This demands that water be managed as part of a healthy functional ecosystem, in order to ensure it continues to deliver essential environmental goods-and- services. The hydrological cycle links the different components of the environment (atmospheric, marine, aquatic, terrestrial and subterranean), and this means that water resources are linked, via the water itself, to all the other components of the broader environment (MacKay and others 2004). This has important implications for management choices: integrated water resource management (IWRM) approaches ensure that water resources are managed as ecosystems. Further, the transboundary nature of water means that regional and sub-regional cooperation are essential to ensure the beneficial and sustainable use of this resource.

Africa is endowed with immense renewable natural resources including freshwater resources. Yet, natural phenomena, such as rainfall patterns and climate change and variability, and human factors, such as population growth, competition over water, and pollution, increasingly threaten the sustainability of resources, and hence the livelihoods of many, particularly poor, people. It is widely recognized that a radical change in approach is required in order to adequately address these threats and so that the available water resources do not become a constraint, but serve as an instrument for accomplishing New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) development goals. These goals include poverty alleviation, economic recovery and securing a sustainable environment. It is in this light that a shared Africa Water Vision and water supply and sanitation targets were defined at the World Water Forum in The Hague in 2000. The Vision calls for a new way of thinking about water and a new form of regional cooperation. It aspires to “An Africa where there is an equitable and sustainable use and management of water resources for poverty alleviation, socioeconomic development, regional cooperation, and the environment” and specific targets have, as shown in Box 1 been set to achieve this (ECA and others 2000). Achieving this Vision requires new approaches to governance and institutions, including, among other things, the adoption of integrated and participatory approaches, management at the lowest possible level and the mainstreaming of gender issues.

Box 1: The Africa Water Vision for 2025: targets for urgent water needs

By 2015:

  • Reduce by 75 per cent the proportion of people without access to safe and adequate water supply.
  • Reduce by 70 per cent the proportion of people without access to safe and adequate sanitation.
  • Increase by 10 per cent water productivity of rain-fed agriculture and irrigation.
  • Increase the area of irrigated land by 25 per cent.
  • Realized 10 per cent of the development potential for agriculture, hydropower, industry, tourism and transportation.
  • Implement measures in all countries to ensure the allocation of sufficient water for environmental sustainability.
  • Implement measures in all countries to conserve and restore watershed ecosystems.

By 2025:

  • Reduce by 95 per cent the proportion of people without access to safe and adequate water supply.
  • Reduce by 95 per cent the proportion of people without access to safe and adequate sanitation.
  • Increase by 60 per cent water productivity of rain-fed agriculture and irrigation.
  • Increase the area of irrigated land by 100 per cent.
  • Realized 25 per cent of the development potential for agriculture, hydropower, industry, tourism and transportation.
  • Implement measures in all river basins to ensure the allocation of sufficient water for environmental sustainability.
  • Implement measures in all river basins to conserve and restore watershed ecosystems.

Source: ECA and others 2000