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University of the Witwatersrand (2020)

Water-energy and climate change nexus in South Africa : application of the integrated water resource management approach for sustainable development

Mathetsa, Steven Matome

Titre : Water-energy and climate change nexus in South Africa : application of the integrated water resource management approach for sustainable development

Auteur : Mathetsa, Steven Matome

Université de soutenance : University of the Witwatersrand

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy, 2020

Résumé partiel
The influence of resources such as water, energy, land, and food on each other has encouraged global communities to investigate their role in the sustainable development discourse and develop contemporary measures to address interlinkages between these systems. The need to develop these measures is prompted by the implications of these interactions on several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those linked to the supply of these resources. Recent developments suggest that the emergence of climate change insinuates the overarching role that this phenomenon has on the already constrained supply of resources such as water and energy. The inextricable interlinkage of climate change with water and energy resources results in what is commonly known as Water-Energy-Climate Change (WECC) nexus. This nexus has, however, not been extensively investigated particularly in the poor and middle-income countries such as those in the Sub-Saharan Africa Region. In the context of South Africa, it is argued that the WECC occurrence is aggravated by the overreliance of water-intensive and greenhouse gas-emitting coal-fired power stations in the country’s energy generating systems. This is despite the semi-aridity of the country which limits its freshwater availability for various socio-economic activities. Existing literature which has dealt with issues relating to the WECC nexus suggests that each of the WECC components is a threat to South Africa’s socio-economic development, as well as ecosystem wellbeing. This, therefore, requires an urgent need to identify and develop appropriate holistic strategies and policies to coordinate the management of the WECC nexus in ways that will contribute to the formulation of systematic approaches directed at building the adaptive capacity and resilience of all the sub-sectors of the economy. Although there are now efforts targeted at understanding these coupled interactions, existing arguments suggest that there is a lack of integrated approach through which policy development processes intended at minimizing the negative impacts of the WECC can be pursued. This deficit has been propagated and sustained by the continued application of the silo or sectoral approach in the management of the WECC nexus. Thus, the current state of affairs requires the adoption of holistic and system thinking approaches, and the promotion of increased collaboration among different stakeholders mandated to manage water and energy resources with climate change as a common challenge across all subsectors of the economy. The current study, therefore, seeks to understand and explore the WECC nexus in South Africa, with the view to promote a holistic and coordinated approach in its analysis. This is done within the discourse of the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) framework, which was found to be effective in the sustainable management of water resources. The selection of this framework is persuaded by the centric role that water plays in the socio-economic development and ecological activities of the country, particularly the energy sector. The study selectively applied the IWRMs’ principles of “water as a finite resource” and “public participatory approach” to obtain the empirical evidence used to verify and validate the extent to which this nexus is understood in South Africa. Although the empirical evidence was obtained from different sectors and key stakeholders across the country, the Waterberg and Highveld regions were purposefully used as case study areas.

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