Developmental water management

This programme focuses on the management of water in support of development objectives in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Within this programme, we are interested in how water can be managed effectively and in the interests of the poor and the marginalised in the context of limited human, technical and financial resources, and how can water management best support countries to achieve their national development objectives.

Throughout the developing world, including Sub-Saharan Africa, governments face the challenge of managing water (both water resources and water services) with limited resources. Consistently, one finds the challenge of legislative and administrative systems that demand greater resources for implementation than are available. This presents a number of challenges, including how to develop policy, legislation, strategies and systems that are appropriate to the African context; how to harness implementation capacity across the public, private and civil society sectors in constructive partnerships for change; and how to build increased accountability into water management systems to ensure that they protect the water needs and rights of poor, marginalised and vulnerable groups.

The participatory research that we conduct forms the basis of policy-level recommendations, channelled to decision-makers through a range of media, including policy briefs, workshops, symposia and dialogue.

The Pegasys Institute works closely with partners interested in similar water governance issues in both the research and the resulting advocacy work.

Water governance and the corporate sector

Appropriate mechanisms for effective water governance in the context of limited financial, human and information resources involve matters of corporate governance as well as how to create the space to leverage companies, primarily at the basin or local level, to do good work, within specific limits.

This research is targeted towards investigating the opportunities and constraints for the public sector that arise out of the increased private sector interest in water resource allocation and management.

The increasing interest of the private sector in co-operating with governments around water resources management poses both an opportunity and a risk. There is a real and tenable opportunity for governments to embrace the interest and co-operation offered by the private sector. However, this needs to be done with the public good of water assured. Potential risks of private sector involvement in water resource management may include:

  • Flexibility in future decisions, as they may be beholden to those who have paid for a system or its rehabilitation. Legitimacy of government processes/decisions in the eyes of other stakeholders/users, through perceptions of uneven playing field/preference.
  • Engagement of stakeholders that have been engaged separately by privately sponsored processes, linking to decisions that may not be in the broader strategic public interest.
  • Dependence on private groups for information, capacity or resources, resulting in government abdication on critical mandates. Unquestioning adoption of strategic responses, following compelling positions and information presented by private sector that government cannot contradict.
  • Long-term financial obligations/risks on government through partnership interventions, particularly once the private sector exits through planned or unforeseen conditions.

The regulation, legislation, incentives, tools and mechanisms for co-operation, therefore, need to be considered, to ensure that private sector interest is for the social, ecological and economic benefit of all. Accountability to ensure that these partnerships are sufficiently facilitated rests with government.

Climate change-resilient governance and institutions

The development of water infrastructure and the management of this precious resource take place in the context of climate change, which will have significant impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Large parts of the subcontinent are already vulnerable as a result of high climate variability, with resultant droughts and floods, and low infrastructure development and institutional capability.

Managing water in the face of climate change will add further challenges for water managers across the sector, within and outside government.

While improved resilience and adaptive management are widely cited as the answer to coping with climate change, there is little practical experience or guidance on what this, in fact, entails.

Pegasys Institute investigates the establishment and maintenance of governance mechanisms and institutional arrangements that will remain robust, effective and able to adapt in the context of climate change and limited human, technical and financial resources. We examine global best practice in this regard, and work with institutions on the ground in Sub-Saharan Africa to develop adaptive management models and approaches that are transferable between institutions.