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CSIR’s Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) Unit   

CSIR’s Leads and Facilitates Partnerships among the Region’s Applied Scientific Research and Technology Development Community.  We Help Secure, Share and Sustain the Precious Water Resources of  Southern Africa. 

Environmental problems are complex.  Addressing them requires integrated approaches that need a broad skills base.  At the same time Southern Africa is an arid region and most of its countries face shortages of fresh water and degrading ecosystems.  The shortage is aggravated by poor quality waters impacted by increasingly widespread industrial, agricultural and municipal waste pollution sources.  Sharing the resource and its benefits equitably with neighbouring countries is also an imperative particular as population migration and climate change will need effective adaptive and mitigating measures.

The challenges are formidable.  In partnerships – CSIR helps form research teams that address them.  CSIR’s Freshwater Theme blends economic, biophysical, legal and institutional assessment skills.  These are required to provide scientific evidence-based solutions to the natural resource-based issues that face our society now and will well into the future.  The WATER Theme focuses on the three central concepts of securing, sharing and sustaining Southern Africa’s water resources.  To do that, we carry out research to understand the complex and varied biophysical settings that provide the resource, we look at how society and users can plan and manage to use it more efficiently and with greater socio-economic benefits, we work on solving problems for industry sectors and water user forums and CMAs targeting development of strategies and implementable solutions to reduce its abuse from pollution.  To do this, we help fill the research gaps in multi-stakeholder participation process that are preventing fair and reasonable sharing of the resource at a national and international scale.

We cooperate and form partnerships in applied research, technology development and innovation across the entire region.  We work closely with all levels of government, academic and research institutes, the private sector and civil society.  Our integrated solutions rely closely on direct liaison with the other NRE Themes which target national issues that cut across water issues – Pollution and Waste, Global Change, Ecosystems Services, Environmental Health, Forestry and Environmental Management and Assessment.  CSIR brings together the right data, information and knowledge to achieve research outcomes that have impact pathways extending through society, government and industry, all of which end up as guiding wise decision making.  Our work reflects key sustainability science principles, many of which were pioneered in South Africa by the CSIR and are used globally.

Our priority 2010 to 2015 Water theme addresses:

Securing the Resource:

  • Illustrating that water for development can be increased and secured beyond “water balance” estimates; and
  • Developing scenarios for an integrated regional plan for long-term water security.

Sharing within our neighbourhoods and nations by:

  • Seeking science-based solutions for equitable transboundary watershed and ecosystem services benefits sharing; and
  • Improving socio-economic conditions and breaking down institutional barriers – both of which are hampering regional development goals being achieved.

Sustaining the resource:

  • Illustrating ecosystem services values and developing novel mechanisms that incentivise wise water; and
  • Working with Communities, Water User Associations, Forums and Catchment Management Agencies on the joint research needed to implement sustainable resource protection and restoration practices from improved land use and efficient water use.

The WATER THEME is one of seven major priorities in CSIR’s Natural Resources and the Environment Unit.  It shares the CSIR’s vision “to conduct world-class, directed, inter-disciplinary research and technological innovation, with partners and stakeholders, in the field(s) of natural resources and the environment to contribute to the social, economic and environmental improvement of South Africa and Africa”.

For a good look at what we do and the breadth of our WATER research (August 2009), please go to: http://www.csir.co.za/publications/August_ScienceScope.html

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