Connect4 water resilience: connecting water resources, communities, drought and flood hazards, and governance across four countries in the Limpopo basin

Institute

  • University of Aberdeen

Background

The Limpopo River Basin (LRB) is an arid, water-stressed basin, yet it is highly susceptibile to floods. It encompasses a large diversity of physical and socio-economical characteristics spread across four countries: Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Floods and droughts have been shown to exacerbate water availability and quality problems and are predicted to increase in frequency and magnitude. We will focus on the challenges and opportunities during floods following droughts in the LRB, when aquifers and communities are already under stress, and when appropriate flood management could improve short-term coping mechanisms and long-term resilience for future dry seasons. We will explore to what extent geographical differences between subregions influence how water resources respond to, and how people cope with, floods and droughts in order to inform appropriate water-management strategies at various scales (local to transnational).

Aims

The research will provide a better understanding of the connectivity within and between physical and social aspects of vulnerability to improve societal preparedness and resilience to flood and drought hazards in arid sub-Saharan regions.

Research outputs will impact:

  • people in the LRB and arid regions through enhanced awareness and preparedness to flood and droughts, leading to increased resilience
  • local and regional authorities via improved hydrological monitoring networks and a strengthened connection from local to transnational levels of governance
  • general public through public engagement activities
  • international academics via publications and socio-hydrological datasets on public databases, training of African under- and postgraduate students and development of early-career researchers

Approach

The 'CONNECT4 water resilience' project brings together a multidisciplinary team of hydrologists and sociologists from academia, policy and practice in the UK, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to investigate the physical and societal factors affecting vulnerability and resilience to drought and floods in four countries of the LRB.

The research will articulate around three integrated work packages (WP).

WP1 will assess basin-scale hydrological connectivity, i.e. how droughts and floods propagate in space and time under varying physical conditions (hydrometeorology, physiography, geology, groundwater-surface water interactions), with a focus on how the hydrological response of a specific subregion influences or is influenced by other regions. This will be achieved though implementation of a basin-scale groundwater–surface-water modelling approach and will be based on existing datasets, in part collected by the project team. Outputs will aid to improve transnational flood and drought monitoring networks and update susceptibility mapping.

WP2 will assess the basin-scale social connectivity, i.e. how drought–flood cycles are understood, anticipated and worked with by local communities and how these communities interact with governance institutions. This will be achieved by carrying out interviews with diverse community groups and with key community–government intermediaries such as extension officers and catchment management fora. Outputs will contribute to understanding how drought/flood risk is perceived by communities and to develop better communication.

WP3 will integrate WP1 and WP2 and will work on the connectivity between social and hydrological systems. It will connect our understanding of multiscale hydrological processes underlying alternating droughts and floods with water resource and risk management, and societal preparedness pathways. This aims to co-create management solutions to reduce impacts and increase benefits of drought–flood cycles throughout the LRB. It will use an iterative, co-production process to strengthen crucial bridges between scientists and water-management stakeholders on the appropriate scale(s).