Local water resource management strategies for adaptation to climate induced impacts in South Africa

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University of Cape Town

In the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the following key issues in relation to climate and water were presented (IPCC 2001): “Climate change will lead to an intensification of the global hydrological cycle and can have major impacts on regional water resources, affecting both ground and surface water supply for domestic and industrial uses, irrigation, hydropower generation, navigation, in-stream ecosystems and water-based recreation. Changes in the total amount of precipitation and in its frequency and intensity directly affect the magnitude and timing of runoff and the intensity of floods and droughts; however, at present, specific regional effects are uncertain”. “The impacts of climate change will depend on the baseline condition of the water supply system and the ability of water resource managers to respond not only to climate change but also to population growth and changes in demands, technology, and economic, social and legislative conditions. In some cases - particularly in wealthier countries with integrated water management systems - improved management may protect water users from climate change at minimal cost; in many others, however, there could be substantial economic, social and environmental costs, particularly in regions that already are water-limited and where there is considerable competition among users". In response to this, this paper focuses on water resource management strategies in South Africa to meet its development goals. These are based mainly on the analysis of potential coping strategies at local municipal level in response to impacts due to climate variability.