Knowing what needs to be done and implementing it are two separate issues. Because of the overall economic status of most of the countries in Southern Africa, the resources to implement programmes designed to reduce water scarcity are very limited.
This is also the cause of institutional weaknesses which result in overbearing bureaucracy and inefficiencies. Although South Africa does not have the same economic problems of its neighbors, very little has been invested in the past in implementing sound disaster management policy.
In South Africa it is not so much a matter of lack of resources as a lack of will. Institutional and financial weakness results in water not being available which could otherwise have relieved water scarcity.
Sectorial professional capacity
Closely related to the financial and institutional circumstances noted above is the critical problem facing water sector professionals. South Africa and the region is not without highly competent and motivated professionals, but the conditions of employment and the incentives are generally not able to compete, particularly with those offered in the private sector.
Disaster management has not been a professional option where experience and expertise have been developed in South Africa. The lack of sufficient expertise to manage water resources and develop and implement policy is a direct contributor to water scarcity.
Politicians and decision-makers are the persons who have greatest influence on the allocation of scarce budgets and the adoption of policy. Unfortunately, the horizons of many politicians do not coincide with the horizons of prudent water resource management, resulting in decisions being made on the basis of short term political expediency.
To have the political will to develop policy and supportive legislation which will introduce the discipline necessary to manage water scarcity in South Africa and the sub-Continent, requires considerable political courage and foresight.
Political tension and conflict within countries and between countries often have a greater influence on de facto policy than the practice of sound water policy.
There are a number of sociological and cultural issues which exacerbate the water scarcity situation. These are often as a result of practices which were not originally a threat to the environment but have become a threat as population pressures and modern consumerism increases.
The resulting pressures on the environment, for example from over grazing, have a direct and detrimental effect on water resources.
Other phenomena such as racism, tribalism and civil war also result in critical incidences of water scarcity for some sectors of the population. The apartheid era in South Africa resulted in large proportions of the population suffering critical shortages of water whilst neighboring communities enjoyed, and often wasted, an excess of water.
The protracted civil wars in Mozambique and Angola have resulted in the already limited infrastructure being destroyed or lapsing into disrepair. The long-term economic and social impacts of these issues often predetermine the overall political and economic framework from which many of the other causes of water scarcity stem.
Globalization has benefitted the economy greatly through increased trade and production of food, energy, and goods. However, the increase of trade and production of goods requires large quantities of water, in fact the OECD countries predict that by 2050, the global demand for water will increase by 55%.
Multiple countries and organizations have declared a water crisis. Water is a finite resource that is shared between nations, within nations, multiple interest groups and private organizations. Roughly 50% of all water available is located between two or more nation states.
Water politics and management requires efficient water allocation through policies and cooperation between nations. Poor water politics and practices can result in water conflict, which is more common surrounding freshwater due to its necessity for survival.
Countries that have a greater supply of water have greater economic success due to an increase in agricultural business and the production of goods, whereas countries, which have limited access to water, have less economic success.
This gap in economic success due to water availability can also result in water conflict. The World Trade Organization has emerged as a key figure in the allocation of water in order to protect the agricultural trade. Water is an essential commodity in the global market for economic success.
Water politics is present within nations, otherwise known as subnational. The shared jurisdiction of access to water between intergovernmental actors is crucial to efficient water politics.
Inefficient water politics at the subnational level has a greater impact on the local economy through increased costs for businesses, increased costs for the agricultural sector, decreased local competitiveness, decrease in local jobs and infrastructure costs.
For instance, Texas plans to build reservoirs to combat water shortages; these reservoirs will cost more than $600 per acre-foot for construction.
Subnational states have a crucial role in water politics through managing local water sources and addressing issues concerning water politics such as allocation, scarcity and water pollution.
Colorado River Basin
The Colorado River basin is trans-boundary basin shared between the United States and Mexico. However at the subnational level within United States, the basin is shared between Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California.
The Colorado River Basin demonstrates intergovernmental conflict over the autonomy of water politics. Intergovernmental water politics has many actors such as private organizations and interest groups.
Cooperation in subnational water politics can result in economic benefits through shared costs and risk for infrastructure. In addition, efficient water politic management results in profitable allocations of water that can sustain irrigation and the agricultural sector.
In conclusion, there has been a proposition in a more balanced approach for water-sharing and allocation through a combination of large scale politics on the international level and smaller scale politics (hydro-psychology) rather than focusing strictly one a singular approach.
This balanced approach would include policies created at community levels and national levels in order to address the issue of water-sharing and allocation.