Transboundary groundwater management in Africa

Project Team:

Marianne Alker
Malte Grossmann (TU Berlin)
Oskar Schmidt (Consultant)
Theresa Steyrer (ZEF)
Insa Theesfeld (Consultant)

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Time frame:
2006 - 2007 / completed

Co-operation Partner:

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
German Technical Cooperation (GTZ)

Project description

Research Question:
The African continent is well endowed with groundwater resources which - besides the predominant local and shallow aquifers - are stored in the approximately 40 transboundary aquifer systems which underlie the continent. The considerable amounts of water stored underground provide opportunities for the social and economic development of many African countries. Considering that many of Africa’s groundwater resources are transboundary by nature, interstate coordination and cooperation and management will become imperative not only if effects spill over the border. Coordination and cooperation should target towards safeguarding equitable and sustainable use of the resource with a view to future water scarcity. Cooperation may span from sharing data and expertise to agreeing over use scenarios and joint management of the resource. At present, transboundary groundwater resources are unilaterally used on and managed on the continent, with few existing first initiatives for coordinated activities.
This research and consultancy project conceptually addresses cooperation on transboundary aquifers in Africa by identifying typical riparian constellations and interstate cooperation problems on the basis of specific hydrogeological attributes of the aquifers. It is assumed that both will help in defining the incentive structures of the riparian countries to cooperate on transboundary aquifers. Taking the peculiarities of transboundary aquifers into account, and the stages of water cooperation in generell, the project discusses organizational modes and cooperation models, and develop a stepwise approach towards coordinated and joint endeavors of the aquifer riparians, and recommendations for the further engagement of German development cooperation how to support this process.

The project came up with a number of policy recommendations, among other things regarding the institutional setup of trnasboundary groundwater management in Africa. Among them are:

  • Put the issue of sustainable transboundary aquifer management on the political agenda and coordinate donor activities
  • Support existing regional river / lake basin and aquifer organisations and facilitate the establishment of transboundary consultation mechanisms
  • Improve the knowledge base and build capacities for groundwater management
  • Assist in the development of flexible management approaches
  • Strengthen national groundwater governance

Relevant publications:
Scheumann, Waltina / Elke Herrfahrdt-Pähle (eds.) (2008): Conceptualizing cooperation on Africa's transboundary groundwater resources, Studies 32