Groundwater governance: The case of the Grootfontein Aquifer at Mahikeng, South Africa

Jude Cobbing
Consulting hydrogeologist, Washington, DC, USA; jcobbing@gmail.com

Cleo Rose-Innes
Economist, Washington, DC, USA; cleoroseinnes@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: This research investigates the case of the Grootfontein Aquifer at Mahikeng. The main aim is to understand why, despite well-established capacity in hydrogeology and progressive groundwater governance rules and practices, groundwater management continues to be poor, with significant deleterious outcomes now and likely in the future. A combination of hydrogeological and institutional analysis reveals a complex set of institutional issues that has inhibited the outcomes anticipated in South African water legislation. The research identifies why conditions are unfavourable for the self-organisation anticipated in the groundwater governance approach that was adopted after 1994, and why actions by specific problem-solving actors are fundamental to the success of this approach. These findings illuminate approaches to economic development that have occurred within the larger public policy context in South Africa since 1994 and find that this has implications for the wider developmental agenda and the political-economic role of the modern African state.

KEYWORDS: Groundwater governance, hydrogeology, Grootfontein Aquifer, common-pool resource, South Africa