Water Resources and Storage

  • Africa’s economic development is held back by episodes of extreme drought and flooding that hydro-climatic variability will only get worse with climate change.
  • Additional water storage infrastructure is needed to manage the subcontinent’s hydrological variability and to fully harness water resources in support of development. 
  • Water resources are underutilized in Africa across the board, yet conflicts between water uses are common.
  • The prevalence of large, trans-boundary river basins complicates the task of developing large-scale infrastructure and managing water-related conflicts.
  • Sound water management institutions are needed at the national and basin levels to optimize water use and develop hydraulic infrastructure.

Water management is critical for meeting Africa’s development challenges.  Though water is vital for agriculture, only 5% Africa’s cultivated land is irrigated. Hydropower is also largely undeveloped in Africa; less than 10% of its potential has been tapped.  Water for people and animals is vital for health and livelihoods, yet only 58% of Africans have access to safe drinking water.

African economies depend on a reliable and adequate supply of water, but high rainfall and hydrological variability result in frequent droughts and floods that stifle economic growth.  Moreover, water resources shared by countries pose complex political and management challenges.

Achieving water security to support growth and to build climate resilience is at the heart of water resource management in Africa.  Water security reflects a country’s ability to function productively in the face of water vulnerability.  It is a precondition for sustaining and increasing investment returns and achieving dynamic economic growth.  A minimum capacity of infrastructure and institutions, backed by robust water information systems, is needed to ensure basic national water security.

Building water infrastructure will fuel growth, reduce weather-induced risk, and alleviate water-related conflicts.  Both large and small infrastructure projects need to be part of a balanced water investment programme that provides reliable water supplies for human health and economic activities and that protects natural water and environmental assets.

Development of large multipurpose storage facilities is necessary for mitigating the economic effects of hydro-climatic variability, for ensuring reliable water supply, and for using available water.  Small-scale approaches to water management improve the ability of the rural poor to cope with water shocks by increasing agricultural productivity and providing cost-effective water supply and drought mitigation.

Water resource investment needs

The estimated annual capital cost of water resource infrastructure is approximately US$10 billion, of which almost 80% is for development of large multipurpose hydropower storage, and about 10% each is for development of large storage capacity for urban water supply and investment in developing small-scale infrastructure projects. As a complement, Africa will need an additional US$1.0 billion a year to develop hydrological networks, meet gaps in water information, and develop water management institutions.

(Source: AICD)

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