Kat Aware : Multi-use allocations of water in South Africa

How can local water management be improved by taking into account the concerns of various users?

Start date of project



Kat River valley, South Africa


In accordance with the new South African Water Act, the Kat River WUA will ultimately be responsible for managing the water resource in the catchment area. This will mean that water licences will be allocated to the various users with a price fixed for the resource. The decision-making process will move from the Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry (current decision-maker) to the WUA when the latter will have its catchment management plan (CMP) validated. The members of the WUA, therefore, find themselves with a major responsibility to be addressed without the actual means of doing so. There is a tremendous need for tools and approaches facilitating the implementation of a consultation and negotiation process between representatives of very different water users and aiming at the preparation of the CMP.

A companion modelling approach was set up with the local WUA around a basic question: how to improve local management of water resources in the Kat river basin whilst listening to the various user groups? The approach was broken down into four phases:

  1.  Integrating available scientific knowledge on the state and uses of the resource within a multi-agent model (KatAWARE);
  2. Sharing this representation of the Kat system with the local stakeholders (WUA) and incorporating local know-how and criticisms in the model;
  3.  Running simulation exercises for agents taking part in the approach with the support of a role-playing game; two role-playing game sessions have taken place;
  4.  Developing possible scenarios for allocating water resources via a new multi-agent model and let the stakeholders discussing them.

The approach culminated in improved knowledge of the hydrological and socio-economic consequences of adopting alternative water allocation strategies in the Kat basin. The stakeholders involved interacted considerably, especially during the role-playing sessions, which made dialogue and discussion on water management scenarios between participants much easier. The WUA is currently drawing up the catchment area management plan and the water allocation scenarios constructed with the KatAWARE model are used as a basis for negotiating and defining the strategies to be proposed in the plan. Given the good results from the project, the Water Research Commission, which financed the project, proposed to extend the approach to other South African catchment areas to improve the negotiation process and collective decision-making within new WUAs. Currently a WRC project insired by the Kat experience is running in the Inkomati Water Management Area, and a new negotiation platform called Wat-A-Game and originated from the KatAWARE RPG was developed in the Sabie catchment.


Association d’usagers du Kat


S. Farolfi et J.P. Muller  (Cirad Green)

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