Eastern Kalahari- Karoo Basin Transboundary Aquifer (EKK TBA)

The key objective of this project is to provide a basis for enhancing and strengthening the understanding of and establish a platform for joint management of the EKK-TBA.


The SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) is the implementing agency of the project “Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States”. The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multi Donor Trust Fund Corporation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) through the World Bank. One of SADC-GMI’s mandates is to advocate for joint management of Transboundary Aquifers (TBAs) in the SADC region to ensure equitable and sustainable use and protection of groundwater. SADC-GMI has therefore dedicated part of the project funding to undertake research in the Eastern Kalahari-Karoo Basin Transboundary Aquifer (EKK-TBA) shared between Botswana and Zimbabwe.

The EKK_TBA is located on the plateau-like watershed between the Zambezi River to the north and Nata River to the west and covers an area of about 34,000 km2. The aquifer consists of Karoo sandstones partially covered by basaltic volcanics with some primary porosity and fractured in places, resulting in confined to semi-confined aquifers. The TBA has been classified as “Troublesome[1]” in which some form of international collaboration in monitoring, management and apportionment is needed in order to avoid confrontation in the future should demographics, land use or climate change push governments to embark on groundwater development in the region in order to meet increasing water demand. The EKK-TBA supports about 240,000 people and receives less than 500 mm rainfall per year.

[1] Davies, J., Robins, N., Farr, J., Sorensen, J., Beetlestone, P., Cobbing, J., 2013 Identifying transboundary aquifers in need of international resource management in the Southern African Development Community region Hydrogeology Journal 21, 321–330. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10040-012-0903-x

Project Objectives

  • The key objective of this project is to provide a basis for enhancing and strengthening the understanding of and establish a platform for joint management of the EKK-TBA.
  • The interventions of the project will address the existing knowledge gaps and forge the common understanding of the transboundary aquifer.
  • It will also enhance coordination among the countries and establish cooperatives processes between the riparian Member States for the integration of groundwater resources.

Key Research Issues

The project will focus on the following prominent challenges facing the EKK-TBA at the present moment:

Groundwater knowledge and understanding in the EKK-TBA is limited due to a variety of challenges that include staff functioning within the responsible institutions, limited capacity building institutions, training costs and limited political buy in. Undertaking research will enhance groundwater knowledge and understanding of the aquifer.

Groundwater Flow: There is limited groundwater data to effectively construct the groundwater flow within the EKK-TBA. This project will facilitate the availability of data to ensure that water flow is assessed within the Transboundary Aquifer.

Groundwater Vulnerability: The Kalahari aquifers are mainly unconfined and intuitively, would be more susceptible to pollution. Through this research,aquifer vulnerability to pollution and over-abstraction will be identified.

Governance Capability: Governance challenges within this region are many and complex. The project will also investigate governance issues at all levels, that could lead to ineffective groundwater management between governments, especially where intergovernmental cooperation is required

Socio-economic and Water Demand: Socio-economic development is paramount in enabling communities achieve better living standards, for instance rural communities that rely mostly on groundwater for their sustenance, be it for domestic water requirements or agricultural purposes and hence groundwater becomes a key driver for their socio-economic development. The project will investigate socio-economic and water demand dynamics of the communities surrounding the EKK-TBA.

Environmental Issues: There is an increasing awareness of the importance of managing water resources to sustain ecological infrastructure and ensure the functioning of biodiversity, to underpin water security. The project will deepen the understanding of environmental issues such as resource depletion, pollution and environmental degradation.

Key Research Issues

As part of the project implementation, a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) will be undertaken. The main purpose of the TDA is to identify, quantify, and set priorities for environmental problems that are transboundary in nature and to identify appropriate preventive and remedial actions. The TDA will provide technical justification for the development of Strategic Action Plans (SAPs), if absent or the refinement thereof, where they do exist. TDAs have been developed over time in projects on transboundary waters financed by the Global Environment Fund, as the approach provides a framework for a thorough analysis of all issues around transboundary water bodies.

Undertake Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis

The TDA aims to:

  • Identify and prioritise the transboundary problems/challenges/concerns
  • Gather, analyse and interpret information on the environmental impacts and socio-economic consequences of each problem
  • Analyse the immediate, underlying, and root causes for each problem, and in particular identify specific practices, sources, locations, and human activity sectors from which environmental degradation arises or threatens to arise
  • Present solutions to identified problems/challenges and implementing measures that address the transboundary challenges

Strategic Action Plan through stakeholder dialogues

The project team will engage in the implementation of Stakeholder Dialogues to understand relevant issues and forge consensus on the joint conjunctive management of water resources in the aquifer system. The stakeholder dialogues will contribute to the recommendations for institutional structures and mechanisms that support the achievement of equitable and sustainable resilience and strengthening of conjunctive water use approaches including joint monitoring and managed aquifer recharge.The stakeholder engagement will include joint SAP for enhanced national and transboundary water management of the EKK-TBA.

Knowledge management of research results

It is imperative that results of the project are shared with relevant stakeholders including decision makers for effective uptake. Knowledge Management of the Research Results (TDA Report and SAP) of the EKK-TBA will be shared with stakeholders as a case study. The aim of knowledge management and dissemination of knowledge is to support decision makers and other stakeholders involved in the governance of transboundary aquifers, with relevant information. The sharing of research results of the EKK-TBA will be done through workshops in Botswana and Zimbabwe and through existing web-based platforms,e.g. the SADC Groundwater Information Portal and the GGRETA Information Management System.

Project Team

The project is implemented by L2K2 Consultants (Pty) Ltd. on behalf of the SADC-GMI. The Project team is graphically depicted below.

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