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SANParks Scientific Services in Arizona, USA

Date: 2008-02-19

by Michele Hofmeyr, Scientific Services

Water is a limited resource that people all around the world have to share. Discussions around this complex issue were the subject of a workshop entitled “Dynamics of Institutions in Water Resource Management” which was held from the 9th to 11th January 2008 at the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity (CSID) at Arizona State University, USA.

Dr Harry Biggs from SANParks Scientific Services joined Dr Sharon Pollard from AWARD (Association for Water and Rural Development) and Prof. Kevin Rogers from the Centre for Water in the Environment, WITS University to present their research finds on the water use dynamics in the Bushbuck Ridge area of Mpumalanga.

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in the study of the dynamics of social-ecological systems around water in the environment and how people arrange themselves to share this resource. The workshop provided the ideal opportunity for gaining more insight into how these water sharing arrangements are established and how successful they are. Often these water sharing agreements are less than perfect and have been known to collapse due to many issues such as conflicts or corruption. The delegates of the workshop were particularly interested in the way in which successful water sharing arrangements establish, how long they last and what requirements are necessary to ensure their sustainability. The delegates provided insight into water-sharing issues from all around the globe, from the Philipines to Europe and the USA.

“It’s important for us in SANParks to sharpen up our thinking about sustainability and sharing of water, particularly as we have to interact with our neighbours who use the same rivers that flow through our protected areas” says Dr Harry Biggs. Attending the meeting was a strategic investment in networking with a number of scholars who are studying arrangements and rules in a variety of water resource management contexts. This, in turn, helps our scientists and managers look at novel ways to provide water management systems that can provide water to all sectors of society but also allowing for sufficient water to maintain all the necessary ecological processes in the environment.