Catchment management is usually the responsibility of a governmental organization such as a Catchment Management Agency in South Africa or a Water Board in the Netherlands. However, catchment boundaries are not always situated within a political region. For example, the Rhine catchment is shared by the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. But also smaller river systems such as the Crocodile river catchment in Southern Africa is shared by three countries (Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique). On an even smaller scale, various river systems in the Netherlands cross borders of Water Authorities and therefore face the same difficulties as water managers of transboundary river systems.
What can happen when catchments are shared by different countries? Each country might have a different approach to events occurring within (their respective parts of) the catchment. Often a country will make decisions based on their own interest, without sufficiently weighing the interests of other countries sharing the same catchment. These different approaches by different countries, without the right communication, can have dire consequences (i.e. too little, too much and/or polluted water systems) on water resources, especially on the downstream side of the catchment. Therefore, in many cases, international agreements are made on water quantity and quality crossing the borders.
Through our experience in the Netherlands and from user consultations in Southern Africa, we can conclude that water managers dealing with international boundaries would benefit greatly from an International Water Control Room in a centralized data platform such as the TWIGA platform.
Written by: Marcel Alderlieste & Glenn Morvan