South Africa’s Water Research Commission (WRC) is moving ahead with a comprehensive new study of the country’s water resources, including its groundwater resources, in a bid to update the existing database and baselines, which were last assessed in 2005.
The WRC has also confirmed a plan to shorten the intervals between updates from ten to four years, acknowledging that the current interval period is inappropriate for a water-stressed country such as South Africa, where the demand on the existing resources is growing strongly.
This is in line with recommendations made in the National Planning Commission’s ‘National Development Plan’, which argues that regular monitoring is required to ensure effective supply planning, development and operation.
The shortened intervals are also better aligned with the statutory requirement for the production of a water resources strategy every five years.
Known as ‘Water Resources of South Africa 2012’, or WR2012, the study will begin on April 1 and will be accompanied by an interactive Web-based reporting system to enable the WRC to continually quantify both surface and groundwater resources.
Besides updating the 2005 database, which was completed and launched jointly by the WRC and the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) in September 2009, WR2012 will also outline minimum monitoring requirements.
Research manager Wandile Nomquphu says the definition of such requirements has become urgent, particularly in light of declining operational rain and streamflow gauges. Prevailing monitoring gaps, he adds, are increasing uncertainty and undermining decision-making.
CEO Dhesigen Naidoo says the outputs will serve as inputs to the water resource planning models of the DWA and will act as the basis for the National Water Resources Strategy.
Consulting engineering group SSI will lead a consortium that will undertake the study.