Climate variability, climate change and water resource strategies for small municipalities

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University of Cape Town

In many parts of the world, variability in climatic conditions is already resulting in wide ranging impacts, especially on water resources and agriculture. Climate variability is already being observed to be increasing, although there remain uncertainties about the link to climate change. However, the link to water management problems is obvious. Water is a limiting resource for development in South Africa and a change in water supply could have major implications in most sectors of the economy, especially in the agriculture sector. Factors that contribute to vulnerability in water systems in southern Africa include seasonal and inter-annual variations in rainfall, which are amplified by high run-off production and evaporation rates. Current modelling scenarios suggest that there will be significant climate change1 impacts in South Africa (Hewitson et al. 2005). Climate change is expected to alter the present hydrological resources in southern Africa and add pressure on the adaptability of future water resources (Schulze & Perks 2000). During the past 20 years, most of Africa has experienced extensive droughts, the last three being 1986-88, 1991-92 and 1997-98 (after Chenje & Johnson 1996). If the occurrence of drought became more frequent, the impact on water resources and consequently agriculture would be significant.