Water governance challenges in rural South Africa: Exploring institutional coordination in drought management

Eugine Makaya, Melanie Rohse, Rosie Day, Coleen Vogel, Lyla Mehta, Lindsey McEwen, Sally Rangecroft, Anne F. Van Loon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Droughts have severe direct impacts on the livelihoods of rural populations. Thus, the management of water for communal agriculture and water supply should be well coordinated to enhance drought resilience. Notwithstanding the interrelations among water management institutions in South Africa, there are complexities in the way these institutions work together, both in preparation for, and during drought times. In this article, we examine the governance of water resources in South Africa with a view to understanding institutional coordination in drought management at different operational scales. Using a qualitative approach, the roles and relationships between water actors at the local and regional level were analyzed for their adequacy in building local level drought resilience in a village in the Limpopo province, South Africa. Key informant interviews conducted revealed operational drought management challenges that emanate from communication barriers, coordination inconsistences, and undefined, unclear actor roles and responsibilities during disasters. The top-down approach to disaster management, while of some value, currently constrains the effectiveness of the local-level institutions implementing local drought risk reduction efforts. Achieving more successful water and drought governance endeavors could be enhanced by greater and wider engagement with community-based actors and water management institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-540
Number of pages22
JournalWater Policy
Issue number4
Early online date16 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


This research was funded by NERC, ESRC and AHRC under grant number NE/P016049/1.

FundersFunder number
Arts and Humanities Research CouncilNE/P016049/1
Economic and Social Research Council
Natural Environment Research Council
National Eye Research Centre


    • Disaster management
    • Drought management
    • Drought risk reduction
    • Institutional coordination
    • South Africa
    • Water governance


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