Testing water demand management scenarios in a water-stressed basin in South Africa: application of the WEAP model
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Like many river basins in South Africa, water resources in the Olifants river basin are almost fully allocated. Respecting the so-called "reserve" (water flow reservation for basic human needs and the environment) imposed by the Water Law of 1998 adds a further dimension, if not difficulty, to water resources management in the basin, especially during the dry periods. Decision makers and local stakeholders (i.e. municipalities, water users' associations, interest groups), who will soon be called upon to work together in a decentralized manner within Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) and Catchment Management Committees (CMCs), must therefore be able to get a rapid and simple understanding of the water balances at different levels in the basin. This paper seeks to assess the pros and cons of using the Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) model for this purpose via its application to the Steelpoort sub-basin of the Olifants river. This model allows the simulation and analysis of various water allocation scenarios and, above all, scenarios of users' behavior. Water demand management is one of the options discussed in more detail here. Simulations are proposed for diverse climatic situations from dry years to normal years and results are discussed. It is evident that the quality of data (in terms of availability and reliability) is very crucial and must be dealt with carefully and with good judgment. Secondly, credible hypotheses have to be made about water uses (losses, return flow) if the results are to be meaningfully used in support of decision-making. Within the limits of data availability, it appears that some water users are not able to meet all their requirements from the river, and that even the ecological reserve will not be fully met during certain years. But the adoption of water demand management procedures offers opportunities for remedying this situation during normal hydrological years. However, it appears that demand management alone will not suffice during dry years. Nevertheless, the ease of use of the model and its user-friendly interfaces make it particularly useful for discussions and dialogue on water resources management among stakeholders; it can also be used to promote greater awareness and understanding of key issues and concerns among the public. (C) 2003 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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