Monash South Africa, supported by the International Water Security Network (IWSN), co-organised a special session with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on water security at the Young Water Professionals Conference (YWP). The event took place from 16-18 November 2015 in South Africa as the 4th Regional South African YWP and 1st African YWP Conference. The conference theme was “Stop Talking, Start Doing”. The conference brought together young experts from the water sector, including industry and academia, to interrogate the concept of water security in light of emerging international challenges for water governance.
Interesting plenary discussions within our session highlighted the complexity of water security in theory and practice. The majority of Southern African countries are considered low to middle income countries grappling with deterioration of water quality, changing patterns of availability and spatially uneven distribution of water resources. In order to curb this, nation-states such as South Africa are faced with a number of options to tackle these challenges: water recycling techniques, demand management approaches, desalination, and inter-basin transfers. Participants of our session engaged in a lively discussion regarding costs and benefits in terms of water security for countries in Southern Africa.
Arising from these discussions was the need to explicitly incorporate the cost of water security into social, economic and political dimensions. Such a conceptualization would mean handing out a ‘tool kit of means’ to water practitioners so they could choose the most appropriate ones for achieving water security. Another important point from our discussion was that there is no one size fits all approach and that the means for achieving water security are always context specific.
The conference provided an excellent opportunity for our students to present their research to an international audience and build networks with a broad range of South African – and international – water practitioners and decision makers.