Southern Africa‘s hydro-economy and water security (SAHEWS)

Funded Project Information
Freshwater Security
NSF code 
Lead PI: 
Declan Conway, Water Security Research Centre, United Kingdon
Tim Osborn, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom
Claudia Ringler, International Food Policy Research Institute, USA
Willem Landman, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa




Time period: 
24 months

Water security in southern Africa encapsulates global pressures on water: rapid population growth, chronic and drought-induced episodic food shortage, growing water scarcity and energy security problems coincident with rising demand, trans-boundary and regional allocation issues, and a strongly variable climate that will likely become drier and more variable in the future. These challenges are exacerbated by political, institutional and economic factors, including limited management and regulatory capacity, and highly inequitable access to reliable potable water. This research seeks to improve understanding of the drivers of short to medium term hydro-meteorological variability, its socioeconomic consequences and develop approaches for improved water resources management in the region under uncertainty.

The proposed collaboration addresses important knowledge gaps in water supply, demand and sharing, and in the application of research to the effective management of water security. Hydro-meteorological variability is large and spatially extensive such that prolonged floods and droughts cause macro-scale socioeconomic impacts yet these are poorly understood. Seasonal forecasts show greater skill for southern Africa relative to many other regions but reliability and skill remain important constraints as do scale, legitimacy, cognitive capacity, procedural and institutional barriers and available choices.

This project will assess and refine seasonal forecasts for water supply and demand, model the socioeconomic consequences of hydro-meteorological variability and develop knowledge transfer techniques, such as Info-Gap Decision Theory for supporting water management. Management case studies will apply these techniques and exchange experiences in water allocation with a drought-prone region in the UK (East Anglia). The case studies will focus on the water-energy nexus and catchment and trans-boundary water allocation taking into consideration the application of forecast knowledge at different spatial scales.