Water resources in Africa

With its 5.400 kmĀ³ of renewable resources (10% of world), water represents one of the major development drivers in Africa. It includes over 40 million ha of irrigation potential and 1 million GWh / year of technically and economically feasible hydropower potential. Major river systems, suitable for navigation, represent today a major infrastructure for inland transport. In addition, water bodies, rivers lakes and wetlands represent a harbour of biodiversity, fisheries and an ecology attraction for tourist use. In spite of this potential Africa faces significant challenges to ensure an effective use and efficient management of its water resources.

Water Resource Management in Africa

In this complex context, water information systems are fundamental for improving water governance and implementing Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) successfully. Today, in many African countries, policies and management decisions are based on sparse and unreliable information. This water information gap is a major limitation for attaining the water-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and putting in practice IWRM plans to face the current and coming challenges of the African water sector.

Developing an IWRM information system is a challenge, even for the wealthier and more organized countries in Europe. This is even more demanding in Africa, where, in several countries, water information systems are severely degraded, policies and management decisions are based on unreliable information, and donor institutions are reluctant to provide long-term support for remnants of out-dated observation networks that will never become adequate for IWRM requirements.

Space based support

The European Space Agency (ESA) realized that the rapidly evolving global Earth observation systems may provide a significant contribution to the IWRM in Africa and consequently launched in 2001 the TIGER initiative. The TIGER initiative supports water authorities, technical centres and other stakeholders in the African water sector to enhance their capacity to collect and use water relevant geo- information to better monitor, assess and inventory their water resources by exploiting EO products and services.

To respond to the urgent information needs for IWRM in Africa, ESA has launched TIGER-NET as a major initiative to develop and demonstrate a user-driven water observation and information system based on EO technology, fulfilling operational requirements and providing a solid base for extension and roll-out to other basins in Africa.

The project was officially launched at the World Water Forum in Marseilles in March 2012 and was running for three years starting 1st of April 2012. In its second cycle, starting after its mid-term review, TIGER-NET extended the number of water authorities involved as host institutions of the WOIS.