Flexible water treaties that anticipate the possibility of gradual and sudden changes in shared basins and incorporate mechanisms to allow parties to adjust management practices to changing circumstances are important for adaptive water management (McCaffrey 2003). Countries may employ a variety of mechanisms for enhancing the flexibility of a water treaty including allocation strategies, drought response provisions, amendment and review mechanisms, revocation clauses, and adaptation responsibilities (Kistin and Ashton 2008). Institutional flexibility also requires that adaptation opportunities embedded in formal governance structures be accompanied by the willingness of joint organizations to recognize and respond to changing circumstances.
The Orange-Senqu water regime contains a variety of flexibility mechanisms (Table 1). Project-oriented agreements (i.e., the LHWP and the Vioolsdrift and Noordoewer Joint Irrigation Scheme) tend to include more specific flexibility mechanisms, but overall, the parties rely heavily on joint organizations to guide the adaptation process. Discursive structures also play a significant role in shaping actual opportunities for recognizing and responding to changing circumstances.
Table 1. Flexibility mechanisms embedded in the Orange-Senqu basin's water governance agreements.
|Flexibility||Relevant annexes, articles, and protocols from Orange-Senqu agreements|
|Allocation|| || || ||Art. 7 (2) Annex II|
|Drought Provisions|| ||Art. 3||Art. 3 (5)||Art. 7 (2) Art. 9 (19) Art. 14 (1)|
|Amendments/Review||Art. 11||Art. 5||Art. 14||Art. 6|
|Revocation Clause||Art. 9||Art. 5||Art. 14||Art. 9 (7,8)|
|Institutional Responsibilities||Art. 1 [ORASECOM]||Art. 1 [PWC]||Art. 5 [JIA]||Art. 9 [JPTC] Protocol 6 [LHWC] Art. 7 [LHDA] Art. 8 [TCTA]|
As Kistin and Ashton (2008) describe in great detail, the existing agreements pertaining to the Orange-Senqu River basin contain several flexibility mechanisms, some of which have not yet been needed or used by the parties. Others, such as the progressive allocation and protocol amendment strategies adopted for the LHWP, provide specific guidelines that may help parties adapt to changing circumstances by requiring management policies and procedures to be reviewed, and if necessary, modified over time. The institutions that have been established to oversee basin projects and advise parties are enabled by the existing agreements to help drive the adaptive process. In particular, the broad mandates of the Permanent Water Commission and ORASECOM to advise parties on several specific issues, plus any other matter deemed important by the commissions, allow these institutions to recognise the need for change and advise the parties to take appropriate action.
Yet, while the agreements themselves do not restrict adaptive capacity, discursive structures within the basin prevent meaningful discussion of major infrastructure projects in the upper and lower basin at ORASECOM meetings, limiting opportunities for basin-wide planning and consequently constraining adaptive capacity. One manifestation of South Africa's efforts to restrict the extent of discussion occurred at a 2007 ORASECOM meeting attended by representatives of all four riparian states, as well as donor organizations and consulting firms active in ORASECOM activities. When a consultant asked the assembled audience when they expected the feasibility for Phase 2 studies of the LHWP to be completed, a member of the South African delegation quickly replied, “We don't discuss those matters here. This is the ORASECOM” (Kistin 2010).
While the reply gave slight pause to the consultant, it did not surprise the representatives from the riparian states who, according to Othusitse Katai, director of Botswana's international waters unit, have become accustomed to South Africa's reluctance to openly discuss the bilateral infrastructure projects (i.e., Phase 2 of the LHWP and the proposed re-regulating dam on the border between South Africa and Namibia) within the basin-wide forum (pers. comm. 2007). What this exchange illustrated is that, despite the ample flexibility afforded in the formal water governance structures, the South African delegations’ broader efforts to restrict the boundaries of what can and cannot be discussed limits the ability of ORASECOM to engage in serious basin-level planning or recognize and respond to changing circumstances.
The process of adaptation in transboundary basins requires the collection, exchange, and utilization of information. For shared data to be used fully, issues of compatibility and credibility must be addressed. In addition to hydrological information, data on the full range of changing circumstances (climatic, economic, social, and political) are critical for developing a shared knowledge base and mutual understanding of the system and supporting decision making within shared basins (Goulden et al. 2008; Timmerman and Langaas 2005).
Over the last four decades, the collection, exchange, credibility, and compatibility of data and information related to water resources in the Orange-Senqu basin have increased (Table 2). The execution of joint studies, the adoption of and compliance with requirements for information exchange, and the development of interpersonal relationships have all contributed to this trend.
Table 2. Impacts on the collection, exchange, credibility, and compatibility of data and information.
| ||Observed Changes||Regime Contributions||External Factors||Remaining Barriers|
| Collection ||Increased||Joint studies||Studies by national governments, parastatal organizations, private sector companies, and scientists||Financial resources, political priorities|
| Exchange ||Increased||Treaty requirements, interpersonal relationships, joint studies||Change in regional political context, technological advances, regional monitoring initiatives||Political reluctance, staff capacity, competition within the private sector|
| Credibility & Compatibility ||Moderately increased||Technology trainings, interpersonal relationships, joint studies||Change in regional political context, regional monitoring initiatives||Lack of data protocol or minimum standards guidelines, cost of new equipment and training, political reluctance|
The bilateral, basin-wide, and regional agreements signed by riparian states in the Orange-Senqu basin require them to exchange data and information and provide prior notification of any activity having a significant impact on the quantity, quality, or flow of the basin (Kistin 2010). The bilateral agreements between Namibia and South Africa include fairly general expectations, while the bilateral agreement regarding the LWHP and the basin-wide treaty establishing ORASECOM outline more detailed requirements for riparian parties. In addition to the basin-specific agreements, all riparian states are also party to the South African Development Community Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses, which reiterates the prior notification and information exchange requirements. Basin managers report a high level of compliance with formal requirements and increasing openness on information issues over time.
In addition to the contributions made by formal data-sharing requirements, several basin managers credited the increased interaction and improved interpersonal relationships with counterparts in neighboring countries as a key factor underpinning improvements in the level of information exchange. “Once you get to know these guys face to face,” explained Othusitse Katai, the director of the international waters unit in Botswana's Department of Water Affairs, “it's much easier to call them up with questions, if necessary, or make small requests for information that would otherwise get bogged down in bureaucratic formalities” (pers. comm. 2007).
The South African Department of Water Affairs also offered technology training to water ministries in neighboring countries as a means of increasing the transparency of the modeling methods it uses domestically to manage water resources. According to Dudley Biggs, the former head of Namibia's technical task team to ORASECOM, the week-long training sessions provided interesting information but served largely as a symbolic gesture of openness. “You would have to spend a year or two to understand the complexities of their systems,” Biggs explained. “But we don't have that kind of expertise here or the resources to invest in that kind of technology … nevertheless, it demonstrated a willingness to share and contributed to levels of trust and credibility between our departments” (pers. comm. 2007).
The execution of joint studies in the basin has augmented the collection and compatibility of valuable data and information. Major joint studies include the Lower Orange River Management Study, the first phase of the ORASECOM Integrated Water Resources Management Plan, and the Phase 2 feasibility study for the LHWP. The Commission has also ordered studies on the wetlands at the river's source and the hydrology of the Molopo-Nossob system in Botswana.
Beyond the water regime, additional factors influencing improvements in information management include the data and information collected at the national level, political transformations in the region, technological advances, and regional-level efforts (Table 2).
Several basin managers described the high degree of tension, mistrust, and secrecy that developed between riparian states during the domestic and interstate conflicts of the 1980's. Parties viewed all shared data with great suspicion, diminishing the utility of information exchange. “The overwhelming sense of doubt caused us to check numbers constantly,” recalled Neil van Wyk, a member of South Africa's technical task team. “The base assumption was that the other side was manipulating the figures to get a better deal” (pers. comm. 2007). The basin managers credited political transformations in the region for increasing the openness between governments and the information exchange level. Political transitions to democracy in both South Africa and Lesotho thus contributed to a decline in secrecy and suspicion regarding water resources data and increased openness between riparian states (Lesoma, pers. comm. 2007; Pyke, pers. comm. 2007).
Efforts to create a regional database of hydrological data and the ability to access and transfer data via the Internet have also contributed to improvements in information availability. The regional South African Development Community Hydrological Cycle Observing System is designed to serve as a central depository for regional water data. Though it faced technical and political roadblocks limiting its effectiveness in its early stages (see Ratashobya and Wellens-Mensah 2002), the South African Development Community water sector is currently in the process of planning for Phase 2 of the system (Ramoeli, pers. comm. 2007).
Despite these important advancements in data collection and exchange, limitations are evident on the willingness of upstream riparian states to share information openly. In 2007, the Namibian delegation to ORASECOM requested permission to participate as an observer in bilateral planning sessions regarding Phase 2 of the LHWP. Disappointed with the lack of meaningful discussion in ORASECOM regarding the development of major infrastructure in the upper basin, the Namibian delegation proposed the arrangement as an alternative avenue for communication. Although the exact wording of the appeal is unclear, retellings suggest the request was framed by Namibian representatives as a minor procedural modification to existing efforts to share information in the basin. According to Piet Heyns, the basic question posed to South Africa and Lesotho was, “Given that we are all committed to sharing information, what difference would it make if we were in the room while the planning was taking place?” (pers. comm. 2007).
For South Africa and Lesotho, the difference was significant. Delegations from both countries rejected Namibia's appeal and remain reluctant to alter current protocols for communication and information sharing between riparian states and basin commissions (Heyns, pers. comm. 2007). The rejection stemmed from concerns by both upper riparian states that involvement of a third party during the planning process would jeopardize their interests in the negotiation and implementation of Phase 2. “The primary concern,” explained Peter Nthathakane, “was that the inclusion of Namibia would stall the already delayed process. For us, that means a delay in payment, and for South Africa, a delay in water, and both resources our countries urgently need” (pers. comm. 2007).
Basin managers in South Africa and Lesotho provided a range of reasons to explain their rejection of Namibia's request including the efficiency of bilateral partnerships for project implementation (Mwakwalumbwa, pers. comm. 2007), the logistical complexities of including additional states (Lesoma, pers. comm. 2007), and the belief that the current levels of communication and interaction with ORASECOM provided sufficient opportunities for the involvement of downstream states (Dlamini, pers. comm. 2007). South African leaders also framed their position as benefiting Namibia by saving them from wasting their time at multiple meetings or getting too bogged down in inconsequential details (Heyns, pers. comm. 2007). But as Heyns put it, “We asked in the first place because we know that we will feel the consequences here of their decisions upstream” (pers. comm. 2007).
Additional barriers described by basin managers to the accumulation of accessible and compatible information to support adaptive capacity in the basin include the lack of human, financial, and technical resources; the lack of political will and data protocols; and competition among private consultants. Basin managers in Lesotho, Botswana, and Namibia noted the lack of funding for data gathering and processing as a significant barrier to information management. The high levels of staff turnover in each riparian country were also noted as a significant obstacle. The establishment of data protocols is a politically sensitive issue in the basin. Certain political representatives are reluctant to have someone else dictate their procedures. On a pragmatic level, leaders are also worried about the high costs of retraining personnel if significant changes are made. Finally, beyond the riparian states, private consultants also play an important role in water resources information collection and exchange. Because their wealth of data and information determines their ability to win public and private contracts in the region, consulting firms do not have strong incentives to share data and information openly, nor are they bound by the same governance rules mandating the exchange of information between states.
Recognizing the need for change, gathering information on it, making decisions about what needs to be changed, how to do it, and implementing and monitoring strategies depends on numerous actors (Smit and Wandel 2006). The stronger the linkages between different actors involved in different aspects of governance, the more equipped the regime is for recognizing and responding to changing circumstances (Yohe and Tol 2002).
Because there are a variety of networks influencing transboundary basins’ adaptive capacity, this article considers four types of networks identified by interviewees as crucial linkages for recognizing and responding to changing circumstances in the Orange-Senqu River basin. These networks interact through communication, data collection and dissemination, and policy development, implementation, and monitoring. They are:
International basin managers who serve on joint water commissions and authorities that facilitate communication and planning across national boundaries;
Technical and political representatives within joint commissions who influence the way in which data and information are translated into goals and strategies;
Representatives who act intersectorially within the water ministries and related government sectors (e.g., agriculture, energy, and environment) and who influence how problems are framed, data are collected and disseminated, and policies are implemented; and
Basin organizations and stakeholders who exchange information and implement policy.
Actor networks related to water governance in the Orange-Senqu basin have grown in strength and scope over the last four decades (Table 3). In particular, the networks between basin managers from each riparian state have grown stronger as the result of basin-specific governance initiatives and regular meetings of commissioners and technical task teams. Regional efforts to support dialogue and planning among water managers, international conferences, and donor-sponsored field trips also contribute to the development of these networks. In a few cases, basin managers developed relationships before assuming leadership roles in their respective countries.
Table 3. Actor networks impact on water governance in the Orange-Senqu basin.
|Type of Network||Impact||Regime Contributions||External Factors||Remaining Barriers|
|Basin Managers||strong||Regular meetings||Conferences, field visits, prior relationships||Staff turnover|
|Technical and Political Representatives||mixed||Meetings||National departmental structures||Communication|
|Intersectoral||weak||–||Workshops||Time and resources|
|Basin Organizations & Stakeholders||weak||Roadmap (ORASECOM); NGO forum (LHDA)||NGO partnerships, donor funding, political context||Political reluctance, institutional design|
Beyond the networks linking joint commission representatives, other types of actor networks expected to support adaptive capacity remain variable or weak within the Orange-Senqu basin. Discussion and decision making regarding water management is concentrated heavily within the departments of water and agricultural affairs in the four riparian states, with little engagement with other governmental departments. In some cases, the representatives to the joint commissions oversee broader ministries, but thus far there has been no formal participation from departments of mining, environment, or tourism.
In general, basin managers noted that the lack of intersectoral actor networks for transboundary water management reflects general levels of interdepartmental disconnect within the government systems. As Peter Pyke, a South African member of ORASECOM's technical task team noted, “Different departments will come together around a specific project. There is not a strong system yet for intersectoral planning and with everyone so busy on their own tasks, there is no time for dialogue for the sake of dialogue” (pers. comm. 2007). Interestingly enough, efforts to streamline water management in Lesotho by consolidating all water-related offices under a single umbrella organization, the Water Commission, has effectively isolated water issues from other departments and decreased cross departmental communication (Lesoma, pers. comm. 2007; Tibbets-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton Consortium 1995).
Stakeholder engagement in the basin varies by joint institution. The Commission has made a nominal commitment to promoting public participation in decision making around basin resources, but there has been no implementation of it to date (ORASECOM 2007). In contrast, the Joint Irrigation Authority was designed to delegate water resources management in the binational irrigation scheme to direct stakeholders. As such, the authority is comprised of three farmers from each side of the border and one representative each from the South African and Namibian governments. Although the Joint Irrigation Authority has historically recognized farmers as its primary stakeholders in the region, discussions started in 2007 about expanding outreach (and membership on the Joint Irrigation Authority) to allow participation from a wider body of stakeholders including business owners and tourism operators (Liebenberg, pers. comm. 2007).
Finally, the turbulent relationship between the Lesotho Highlands Water Commision and communities affected by the construction of the joint project is well documented. The network between the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority and affected communities started off poorly with little communication between the two groups in the planning and early implementation of Phase 1A (Hoover 2001; Panel of Experts 2002). Yet after a network of local and international NGOs joined affected communities in launching protests, the parties negotiated new strategies for communication, consultation, and compensation (Lesotho Highlands Development Authority 2008). It has yet to be seen how the evolving network between the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority and various stakeholders will influence the implementation of Phase 2 of the LHWP.
Finally, financial capital is widely regarded as a critical component of adaptive capacity (Allan 2001; Turton and Ohlsson 2000; Yohe and Tol 2002). Levels of economic development in the Orange-Senqu basin states vary greatly, affecting the distribution of wealth and the capacity of each country individually to recognize and respond to changing circumstances (Kistin and Ashton 2008). South Africa's relatively high GDP, for example, enables the country to invest in human, technological, and infrastructure resources to support advanced water management and adaptation at a level beyond that of its neighboring states. Cognisant of this interstate disparity, this article examines two additional facets of financial resources affecting adaptive capacity in the basin: the effect of the water regime on cost saving and revenue generation and access to financing for transboundary water governance initiatives.
Joint governance initiatives in the Orange-Senqu basin contribute variably to the financial resources available to the riparian states (Table 4). At the basin level, ORASECOM has yet to make major, on-the-ground impacts, but it has contributed to cost savings by engaging parties in joint studies (Tompkins 2007). At the project level, the joint governance of the Vioolsdrift and Noordoewer Joint Irrigation Scheme allowed farmers on both sides of the border to continue production after Namibia gained independence. Agricultural production and employment linked to the scheme contribute only marginally to national incomes in South Africa and Namibia, but they make a significant impact on the producers and laborers in the border region (Permanent Water Commission 2005). The LHWP, by contrast, contributes more substantially to resource generation for upper riparian states by enabling a reliable supply of water to support agricultural, mining, and industrial production in South Africa and generating hydropower and royalty payments for Lesotho (Lesotho Highlands Development Authority 2008). The allocation of water and related benefits at the national and subnational levels is discussed in Kistin (2010).
Table 4. Impact of joint water governance initiatives on cost savings and revenue generation in the Orange-Senqu basin.
|Joint Initiative||Resource Generation||External Factors||Remaining Barriers|
|Studies||Cost saving||Donor funding||Eliminating overlap & redundancy|
|Vioolsdrift and Noordoewer Joint Irrigation Scheme||Continued water delivery/agriculture production||Processing/marketing||Allocating water within the scheme|
|Lesotho Highlands Water Project||Royalties, hydropower and infrastructure to Lesotho; reliable water supply to South Africa||Additional water transfers||Phase 2; compensation/distribution of wealth|
Over the last four decades, the Orange-Senqu water regime has played an important role in attracting investment and donor support in the basin and the region. In the early 1980's, the partnership between Lesotho and South Africa opened doors to financing from the World Bank and other international donors that otherwise might have been impossible given sanctions against the apartheid regime (Hoover 2001). Moreover, since 2000 and the establishment of ORASECOM, the Orange-Senqu basin has attracted substantial support for transboundary water governance initiatives from multiple international partners (Kistin 2010; South African Development Community 2008). Donor support in the basin bolsters the resources available to ORASECOM, in particular, and helps to facilitate adaptation by financing joint studies, meetings, training, and workshops. Yet basin managers also report duplication and overlap as a result of the influx of external donor partners with some suggesting that donor saturation diminishes adaptive capacity in the basin. Furthermore, as Kistin (2010) explains in greater detail, donor initiatives in the basin tend to focus on technocratic approaches to enhancing cooperation and overlook the political barriers constraining adaptive capacity in the basin.
Cumulative Effects on Adaptive Capacity
The previous four sections have shown that the Orange-Senqu water governance regime both enables and constrains different aspects of adaptive capacity. Table 5 provides a summary of the regime's positive and negative effects on institutional flexibility, information management, actor networks, and financial resources.
Table 5. Cumulative effects of the Orange-Senqu water regime on adaptive capacity in the basin.
|Institutional Flexibility||•Multiple flexibility mechanisms embedded in basin treaties •Joint authorities granted broad powers for adapting management strategies •Joint commissions granted mandate to advise on all matters deemed important to cooperating parties||•Discursive structures prevent basin-wide dialogue regarding major infrastructure in the basin, restricting ORASECOM's advisory ability|
|Information Management||•Procedural compliance with exchange requirements •Overall increase in openness||•South Africa and Lesotho rejected Namibia's request to participate in the LHWP's Phase 2 discussions|
|Actor Networks||•Strengthening of interstate networks of government water officials||•South Africa and Lesotho privilege bilateral networks, limiting strategic planning at the basin-wide level|
|Financial Resources||•Joint studies save money •Joint projects make major (i.e., LHWP) and minor (i.e., VNJIS) contributions to national wealth •Cooperative governance arrangements help states secure financing and donor support||•The LHWP, while mutually beneficial at the national level, is not necessarily a win–win scenario at the regional or subnational level •Donor saturation in the basin leads to overlap and duplication of efforts to support adaptive management •Donor initiatives tend to overlook the political barriers constraining adaptive capacity in the basin|
In terms of institutional flexibility, the analysis showed that the formal treaties do not restrict the ability of riparian states to recognize and respond to changing circumstances. They contain multiple flexibility mechanisms. Joint authorities were granted broad powers for adapting management strategies and joint commissions were granted broad mandates to advise on all matters deemed important to cooperating parties. However, discursive structures established by South Africa, which keep major bilateral infrastructure projects beyond the realm of acceptable discussion at ORASECOM meetings, limit the opportunities for meaningful basin-wide planning, and consequently, constrain the ability of riparian states to recognize and respond to changing circumstances. This finding also challenges the assumption held by many donor organization that ORASECOM serves as the overarching planning organization in the basin.
The analysis of information management showed that the water governance regime made important contributions to data collection and exchange. Parties have largely complied with procedural requirements for data sharing and prior notification of projects in the basin. Yet there is a reluctance to engage the basin-wide commission in discussions about bilateral infrastructure projects and refusal to allow Namibia to participate as an observer in Phase 2 deliberations regarding the LHWP. The recalcitrance signals limitations to the willingness of upstream riparians to share information openly.
A similar trend emerged in the analysis of actor networks. Overall, the water governance regime has contributed to the strengthening of relationships and communication between basin managers in all four riparian governments. Efforts to avoid undue interference with the LHWP, however, meant that Lesotho and South Africa privileged bilateral networks as the primary means for water resources planning.
In terms of wealth and financial resources, collaboration between riparian states has contributed to various levels of cost savings and revenue generation. The costs and benefits of transboundary water cooperation, however, have not always been distributed evenly at the subnational scale (Kistin 2010). The ORASECOM's formation has also attracted significant financial support from bilateral and multilateral donors. However, donor initiatives tend to focus on technocratic approaches to enhancing cooperation and overlook the political barriers constraining adaptive capacity in the basin (Kistin 2010).
Overall, the hypothesis that ongoing hydro-political cooperation enhances adaptive capacity by enabling information exchange and use while facilitating joint planning cannot be fully corroborated. Although the regime contributes to both too a certain degree, discursive governance structures limiting the scope of discussions within ORASECOM constrain the parties’ abilities to recognize and respond to changing circumstances and engage in joint planning at the basin scale.