Fractional water allocation and reservoir capacity sharing concepts: An adaptation for the Komati Basin
This paper presents an adaptation of fractional water allocation and reservoir capacity sharing (FWARCS) concepts for application in the Komati Basin, a river system shared between South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. Many traditional methods for allocating water are based on volume-per-unit-time allocation that is supplied at some level of assurance and managed using priority-based reservoir and river system operating rules, as well as on the “use it or lose it” principle, which is considered exclusive by water users as it leaves them out of the management of their water allocations. In the Komati Basin, these traditional methods of water allocation led to frequent conflicts among users and with water managers. However, the introduction of the modified FWARCS, which assigns available water in the system to water users according to the proportions of their water entitlements and allows water to be banked in reservoirs, appears to be a solution to some of these problems. This method allows water users to decide when and how much of that entitlement they may use. Since the implementation of the modified FWARCS technique in the Komati Basin in 2002, the regulation, transparency and efficiency of operating the system improved and subsequently the number of disputes over water has declined. South Africa improved from an overuse of 8.2 Mm 3 in 2002/03 water year to realize a saving of 29.5 Mm 3 in 2005/06. Similarly, Swaziland improved from an overuse of 3.9 Mm 3 in 2002/03 to achieve a saving of 14.6 Mm 3 in 2005/06. Users have recognised and embraced the transparency and flexibility of the modified FWARCS. They choose, as the need and opportunity arise, when and how much water they utilise, whether to “bank” and/or “trade” the water they save subject to the conditions of their entitlements. The implementation of the modified FWARCS was also made successful by the existence of proper institutional structures, appropriate decision support tools, good water measurement infrastructure and reliable water accounting systems. The establishment, development and utilization of these elements of water management, as well as the challenges encountered in relation to the adoption of modified FWARCS in the Komati Basin are discussed in this paper.