The Southern African Development Community (SADC) groups fourteen sovereign states in\ud the southern and eastern Africa region for the main purpose of fostering co-operation for\ud mutual benefit from development of the resources of the whole region. The region accounts\ud for almost 70% gross domestic product of sub-Saharan Africa and is home to almost a third of\ud its people. In the context of water resources, conditions in the SADC region are highly\ud variable with respect to the relative reliance of each of the Member States on surface or\ud groundwater sources. However, studies already indicate that water resources will be scarce in\ud 9 of the 14 Member States within the next 10 to 30 years, most especially in the southern and\ud eastern portion of the SADC region. Clearly, water resource conservation and comprehensive\ud national and regional planning is going to be crucial.\ud SADC recognised the critical importance of water to regional integration and economic\ud development and established its own Water Sector in 1996. A SADC Protocol on Shared\ud Watercourse Systems was adopted to set the rules for joint management of resources. A\ud Regional Strategic Action Plan for Integrated Water Resource Development and Management\ud has been compiled; this is being implemented to address key water management issues,\ud concerning both surface water bodies and aquifers (groundwater).\ud The region is also characterised by rapid population growth. Extremes of climate bring\ud frequent drought and substantial flood events that impact on rural populations as well as\ud national productivity. The region is already highly dependent on groundwater for rural water\ud supply, and it is clear that groundwater is a key element in the alleviation of the effects of\ud drought on rural communities.\ud However, policy responses to drought have, in the past, been based on short-term crisis\ud reactions, which have generally proved to be inefficient or ineffective. To address this\ud undesirable situation, proactive, sustainable and integrated management of groundwater\ud resources needs to be instigated, but with due sympathy to the requirements of ecosystems
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