Barbara Lopi
March 21, 2014

As the international community commemorates the 2014 World Water Day tomorrow, March 22 whose theme is Water and Energy, Member States in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should consider the occasion as an added opportunity in their efforts towards improved, combined and coordinated management of water and energy.

World Water Day (WWD) is an international event which is held every year on 22 March to focus global attention on the importance of water and the need for sustainable management of the resource.

WWD 2014 Logo
WWD 2014 Logo

The goal for this year’s WWD is to encourage increased awareness among decision-makers, inside and outside the water and energy domains, as well as stakeholders and practitioners about the interlinkages, potential synergies and trade-offs. Furthermore, the goal of this year’s theme is to highlight the need for appropriate responses and regulatory frameworks that account for both water and energy priorities.

The theme, water and energy, therefore, challenges national governments and other stakeholders to collectively address the water-energy nexus, particularly addressing inequities, especially for the majority who are struggling to survive without access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, sufficient food and energy services.

One of the overarching key messages behind the 2014 WWD theme of water and energy is that, “water requires energy and energy requires water”. This is because water is required to produce energy and energy is needed for the extraction, treatment, and distribution of water as well as its collection and treatment after use.

Clean water shortage affects the lives of individuals and the vitality of entire communities
Clean water shortage affects the lives of individuals and the vitality of entire communities

The water and energy sectors are closely interlinked and interdependent, hence the need for more integrated planning and crosscutting frameworks that will bridge ministries and sectors, leading the way to interlinked energy security and sustainable water use.

The SADC region which comprises of Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, has more than 40 per cent of its Member States having water and energy sectors sitting in one ministry, thereby facilitating sectoral linkages.

The growing demand for limited water supplies in the SADC Member States put increasing pressure on water intensive energy producers to seek alternative approaches, especially in areas where energy is competing with other major water users such as agriculture, manufacturing, drinking water and sanitation services for cities. Furthermore, with increasing climate variability, many parts of the region will start to experience water restrictions in their uses to maintain healthy ecosystems.

In October last year, delegates from SADC Member States who were attending the 6th SADC Multi-Stakeholder Water Dialogue held under the theme, Watering Development in SADC: Exploring the Water, Energy and Food Nexus acknowledged the interlinks between water and energy and called for more practical interventions to facilitate breaking down the culture of working in sectoral silos towards integrated planning and implementation of development programmes.

The delegates noted that while policy instruments existed at the SADC regional level which took cognizance of the nexus approach, such as the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and the SADC Regional Water Policy, more practical interventions were needed to break the practice of working in silos.

Other fundamental frameworks that are in place to ease coordination and integrated planning between the water and energy sectors in the SADC region are the revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses, and the Southern African vision for water, life and the environment.

Competition for water resources is perceived by a majority of countries to have increased over the past 20 years
Competition for water resources is perceived by a majority of countries to have increased over the past 20 years

As the region will be joining the rest of the world in commemorating the 2014 World Water Day, activities that will improve understanding of the connections and effects that the water and energy sectors have on each other should be promoted to facilitate improved coordination in planning and subsequently result in optimized investments and reduction in inefficiencies.

Integrated approaches and solutions to water-energy issues can achieve greater economic and social impacts, hence governments need to be encouraged to create enabling environments to foster greater coordination between the water and energy domains. – Barbara Lopi is the communications and Awareness Expert in the Water Sector at the SADC Secretariat.

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