Orange-Senqu River Basin

Orange-Senqu River Basin. Picture: Supplied.

Better water resources management, more investments and more multipurpose projects could soon be a reality in the Orange-Senqu River Basin.

At the end of January, the African Water Facility (AWF) and the NEPAD Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (NEPAD-IPPF) signed an agreement with the Orange Senqu River Basin Commission (ORASECOM) to launch the Climate Resilient Water Resources Investment Strategy and Multipurpose Project Preparation.

The co-financed project amounts to €3.5 million (approximately R48.6 million). Of that, the AWF has contributed €2 million and NEPAD-IPPF, $1.2 million.

The main objective of the project is to promote sustainable socio-economic growth in the basin riparian countries through climate resilient water resources development.

ORASECOM said the project will foster enhanced sustainable water resources management of the basin, increased investments based on better planning, which will in turn allow for more multipurpose projects. Such projects will address the livelihood needs of the communities living in rural and urban areas, ORASECOM said.

Ensuring Southern Africa’s water security

The Orange-Senqu River Basin originates in the highlands of Lesotho and is shared between Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa. It runs over 2,300 km to its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean on the border of Namibia and South Africa.

The river basin spans over one million km2 and is one of the largest river basins in Africa.

The basin poses complex water management challenges for safeguarding future water security as climate change has impacted the reliability of water resources and predictability of rainfall.

Water resources investment plan

ORASECOM said that with the funding of the new agreement, it will develop an optimised water resources investment plan and select a priority transboundary project which will be prepared at feasibility level.

Climate resilience will also be integrated in the planning and development of water infrastructure.

Economic impacts

The Orange-Senqu River Basin is of major economic importance to South Africa and Lesotho as it contributes towards each country’s gross domestic product by 26% and 100% respectively.

Fourteen million people from Lesotho will benefit from the project. These people live in the riparian communities within the basin. Five million South Africans, despite being located outside the basin, will also benefit from its water resource through water transfer schemes.

ORASECOM said the water basin resources development will greatly improve livelihoods and engender sustainable socio-economic growth in the region.

Shem Simuyemba, NEPAD-IPPF manager, said that there are multiple problems related to deteriorating environmental conditions and lack of inclusive water resources development that support economic growth and alleviate poverty.

“The solutions to these problems are to be addressed through optimisation of the water resources development based on balanced economic, social and environmental considerations,” he said. “This project is part of these solutions.”