AFRICA ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK
Past, present and future perspectives

CONCLUSION

Africa's water resources are characterized by extreme variability, both over time and space. Rainfall varies from less than 20 mm/yr in the arid countries encompassing the Sahara desert to more than 1 000 mm/yr in the humid tropical belt of western, eastern and central Africa. Inter-annual variations can be extremely high, and drought and/or flooding is common in most African countries. The cost of such extreme events runs to millions of dollars every year, a price that many African countries cannot afford either to incur or to prevent.

Natural climatic variations, and the location of major urban and industrial centres in dry or waterstressed areas, presents a formidable challenge for water service providers. With anticipated increases in unpredictability and variation in precipitation due to global climate change, and increases in demand from a rapidly growing population and economic developments, the way in which water resources are managed in Africa needs to be radically reformed in order to meet the goal of equitable access to sufficient water of acceptable quality, and to facilitate agricultural and industrial development. (See Box 2e.12.)

Increases in demand for freshwater are anticipated in all African countries, in all sectors (domestic, agricultural and industrial), over the next 10 years. In some countries, demand is projected to double within the next 30 years

Increases in demand for freshwater are anticipated in all African countries, in all sectors (domestic, agricultural and industrial), over the next 10 years. In some countries, demand is projected to double within the next 30 years. This arises not just from an increase in the number of people requiring water, but also from increasing consumption patterns, especially among the wealthier communities. Likewise, industries rarely pay the true price of water and are, therefore, not encouraged to recycle or to reduce their consumption. Surface and groundwater supplies have been exploited, and some countries have turned to alternative sources of water, in order to attempt to meet this increasing demand, including desalinization of seawater and recycling of wastewater.

Most African countries cite declining water quality as a priority issue for the environmental and developmental agenda. The most common sources of freshwater pollution are sewage, industrial effluents and agricultural run-off. They are due, in large part, to inadequate wastewater treatment facilities, as well as to ineffective pollution control

Most African countries cite declining water quality as a priority issue for the environmental and developmental agenda. The most common sources of freshwater pollution are sewage, industrial effluents and agricultural run-off. They are due, in large part, to inadequate wastewater treatment facilities, as well as to ineffective pollution control.

The principles of IWRM have been widely adopted in Africa, as a systematic approach for tackling the technical, hydrological, economic, environmental, social and legal aspects of water quality and supply problems. A central tenet of IWRM is to move away from supply management methods, such as the construction of dams, towards demand management methods, such as removal of water subsidies and the enforcement of polluter payments. IWRM also requires the joint management of water resources by all users, from local communities to water service providers, municipalities, industries and agricultural organizations. Although adopted in principle in the region, implementation of IWRM has, to date, been impeded by: capacity constraints; lack of financial resources; institutional fragmentation; poor availability of information; and lack of commitment by various partners.

Box 2e.12 Attaining Africa's water vision

In order to achieve Africa's water vision of sustainable access to clean, safe water for all, various reforms to water policies and management strategies are required. The most important of these, which will be monitored according to a series of milestones over the next 25 years, are: political commitment and support at the grassroots level, together with openness and accountability in decision making; enhanced information gathering and dissemination; regional cooperation and decisive action; and sustainable financing and cost recovery methods.

Source:World Water Council 2000