"The water situation here is bad. Even at the river we are fighting with each other to get water. Someone can go and take water and another one can come back without any. They are fighting because everyone wants to be the first to take water, so they come and say I should take it first, and then someone else comes and says they should take it first, and they start fighting."
Madalena Wissiquisse

Around the world, water scarcity is increasingly impacting societies, economies and environments. The quote above is from an article detailing the alarming situation in Mozambique, where scarce resources are compounding poor water, sanitation and hygiene standards and provoking conflict. There is evidently no simple solution; however, there are steps that can be taken to help mitigate or prevent future incidents.

The quote below highlights the importance of having strong institutions in place to effectively manage and allocate the use of available water resources. Though manifesting at the ground level, this situation plays out at many scales, from local communities up to governments competing for resources in transboundary basins.

Issues manifest when competing interests and a lack of effective governance result in a race to the bottom for scarce water resources. Where effective resource management and allocation mechanisms are in place, resources can be more efficiently distributed across competing demands, better meeting different needs, such as community, irrigation and industry, and environmental uses. Furthermore, in many cases, scarcity issues can be solved more cost-effectively through improved institutions and allocation, rather than through investing in water infrastructure to increase supply.

As water scarcity increases, avoiding a crisis point (such as is being experienced in Mozambique) will increasingly depend on the existence of adequate water resource management institutions. To help meet this challenge, Aither, in partnership with the Australian Water Partnership and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has developed WaterGuide to provide guidance on how water resource management policy and institutions can be improved.


This insight was written in response to the article ‘We fight with each other over water’: rivers run dry in Mozambique – in pictures’ on The Guardian which first appeared on theguardian.com on 24 January 2018.