This paper explores the agricultural groundwater management system of Mogwadi (Dendron), Limpopo, South Africa – an area associated with intensive use of hard rock aquifers for irrigation – and the potential contribution of seasonal forecasts. These relatively shallow aquifers are often perceived as ‘self-regulating’, yet climate variability and infrequent recharge episodes raise the question of whether seasonal forecasting could contribute to more sustainable groundwater use. Hydro-meteorological observations, interviews and repeat focus groups with commercial farmers were used to examine this question for the 2014–15 rainfall season, with follow-up interviews during the 2015–16 El Niño season. Two long-term borehole series showed effects of episodic recharge events and management interventions. Comparison of formal and informal management practices highlighted important contrasts: a perceived lack of formal coordination within governing bodies, contrary to high levels of informal coordination between farmers despite a persistent ‘tragedy of the commons’ problem. Seasonal forecast use was limited due to lack of awareness and understanding of their relevance, low credibility and trust of forecasts, and poor dissemination. Farmers expressed increased interest in such information after the 2015–16 drought, if tailored to their needs. Increased uptake is, however, contingent on complementary groundwater monitoring network improvements and enhanced cooperation between stakeholder groups.

Fallon, A., Villhoth, K., Conway, D., Lankford, B. and Ebrahim, G. (2018). In: Journal of Water and Climate Change. jwc2018042.

Keep in touch with the Grantham Research Institute at LSE
Sign up to our newsletters and get the latest analysis, research, commentary and details of upcoming events.