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Document Abstract
Published: 2016

South Africa’s drought preparedness in the water sector: too little too late?

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South Africa experiences droughts on a regular basis, often associated with significant negative impacts on society and the economy. Droughts can be forecast, and South African climate scientists have been developing computer-generated models to forecast El Niño-induced droughts. Even so, there is a tendency to implement remedial interventions when droughts occur, rather than implementing proactive and preventative strategies. Being reactive seems to be a defining feature of South African water-resource management. This has also been the case with the 2015/2016 drought. What is more, the forecasting capability of South Africa seems to be under strain as more and more weather monitoring stations and river gauges are stolen or vandalised and not replaced. This makes it difficult to gather data for extreme weather event forecasting. One way of increasing this capability is through collaboration with citizens to build a citizen-science data repository. This can enhance scientists’ and the government’s capacity to forecast droughts.


  • South Africa should adopt a long-term, national drought policy and strategy to improve the country’s response to future droughts
  • the computer-generated models that determine operating rules, which influence water restrictions for various users, need regular updating and improvement
  • the drought response unit of the DWS needs to become more proactive in its preparedness for droughts
  • a formalised knowledge exchange platform should be established that consolidates scientific and modelling forecasting capability in support of drought preparedness
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R. Meissner; I. Jacobs-Mata

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