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    The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is an expansive region, with unevenly-distributed water resources compared to population and settlement patterns coupled with a variable and changing climate. Therefore water availability and water quality are critical concerns for many SADC Member States. While Southern Africa experiences significant precipitation, it is highly seasonal in most countries and the distribution varies between tropical areas in the north of the region and arid and semi-arid climates in southern and central regions. Furthermore, competing domestic, agricultural and industrial demands can mean that a large agricultural industry can receive its required quota, while a small neighbouring landholder receives very little. These influences on water availability can ultimately lead to Food Insecurity in the region. Other factors that contribute to water scarcity include population growth and climate change. Such competing pressures for use also frequently affect water quality, meaning that in some cases water may be available, but not fit for human consumption or domestic use.

    SADC views water management as a pivotal instrument for promoting peace in the Southern African region through transboundary and regional cooperation and harmonisation of legislation, policies and strategies. The SADC Water Division, part of the Infrastructure and Services Directorate, addresses water resources management issues through the Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses (2000), the Regional Water Strategy (2006) and a series of Regional Strategic Action Plans for the Water Sector - currently on version 3. SADC is active in supporting Member States to address the challenges of water resources management, particularly those of a transboundary nature. In turn, SADC also receives considerable support from its 22 International Cooperating Partners.

    Sharing Water Resources

    The Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses (2000) emphasises the equitable use of water resources, using the guiding principles of Integrated Water Resources Management; also taking into account geographic and climatic factors, as well as the socio-economic demands of SADC Member States. The SADC Water Division promotes the sustainable use of water resources through coordinated management, protection and equitable use.

    As can be seen from the table and map below, such cooperation and coordination is critical within SADC. The 12 SADC mainland Member States share 15 river basins. These river basins are managed by 12 river basin organisations or basin management authorities, all at different stages of development and capacity.

    Major shared river basins within SADC.



    River Basin Organisation


    Mozambique and Zimbabwe



    Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic

    Commission Internationale du Bassin Congo-Oubangui-Sangha (CICOS)


    Angola and Namibia



    Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland



    Angola, Namibia

    Permanent Joing Technical Committee (PJTC) Kunene


    Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe

    Limpopo Watercourse Commission - LIMCOM


    Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe

    The Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM)


    Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa

    The Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM)


    Mozambique and Zimbabwe



    Mozambique and Tanzania



    Mozambique and Zimbabwe



    Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland



    Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

    The Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM)

     Major River Basins in SADCSADC_Riverbasins_lowres.jpg

    Increasingly it is understood that there is a cost associated with the use and degradation of natural resources. Natural Resource Accounting is the process of assigning a monetary value to resources that are traditionally not valued in such a way. This helps a government to integrate natural resources into the system of national accounts. SADC has embraced this concept and through extensive project work, has developed and tested methodologies for Economic Accounting of Water Use. The method elaborated through this project provides a practical framework for understanding the role of water in the economy of Member States. Pilot projects were established in four countries and two river basins in SADC, allowing for the allowing further standardisation of methodologies, indicators and best practices. Read more about the Economic Accounting of Water Use Project.

    Water Demand Management

    Increased access to safe water for drinking and sanitation are critical development initiatives as noted in Regional Water Strategy, affecting both the health and prosperity of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.  The SADC Water Demand Management Programme seeks to promote water demand management as a means to ensure efficient and sustainable water resource utilisation.  The programme approaches water demand management from a “pro-poor” perspective through:

    • Regional water resource development planning and management;
    • Infrastructure development support;
    • Water governance; and
    • Capacity building.

    Supporting Cooperation

    A critical component of the dialogue between SADC and International Cooperating Partners is the Water Strategy Reference Group, which consists of the SADC Secretariat and all International Cooperating Partners currently engaged in the SADC Water Sector. This reference group is guided by the Windhoek Declaration (2006), which requires all development assistance is coordinated through the SADC-ICP Partnership DialogueThe coordination of multilateral support by International Cooperating Partners (ICP) to the SADC Water Sector is currently led by Germany through the GIZ-implemented Transboundary Water Management in SADC Programme. Read more about Development Cooperation in SADC. Further information can be found on the SADC Water Sector International Cooperation Partner Portal.

    More Information

    See also the Water and Sanitation page under Infrastructure, and the Water Information Services and Portals.

    Relevant Documents

    Responsible Directorate

    Information Services