Open Science to Support Water Security in Southern Africa (OWASA)

New research project coordinated by the ITT, TH Köln (University of Applied Sciences) and supported by various partners (see below). The OWASA-consortium aims to support local decision-making towards water security and drought risk management in Southern Africa by developing high-resolution datasets and information products at local scales that allow the selection of site-specific adaptation measures.


The project aims at following a multi-scale approach linking local, provincial and national stakeholders to the university partners and international knowledge community.

Oriented by Water Security and Drought Risk assessment, with the implementation of the increasing number of data products available from earth observation and global modeling efforts, water uses will be characterized and analyses at the river basin scale will be undertaken. This evaluation component is composed of open access gridded hydro-climatic and socio-economic data products, as these will be not only evaluated, but further optimized and combined with local information to feed into local water security and drought risk assessment.

Based on the resulting information, along with local stakeholders participation, the project will carry out the design of adequate measures for an improved management of the water resources in the area, incorporating locally appropriate, cost-effective adaptation such as nature-based solutions, combined green‐gray infrastructure and integrated WEF provision technologies (i.e. food-supply technologies, or irrigation concepts) for implementation in the pilot regions.

Two pilot areas in Waterberg (South Africa) and Chimanimani (Zimbabwe) have been chosen in close coordination with the SADC integrated water resources management initiative UNESCO regional office for Southern Africa and include UNESCO biosphere reserves that serve as pilot are as for climate change adaptation. As such, the experience from these pilot regions will serve as best practice for other areas within the same province, nation or basin, facilitated through appropriate communication and training activities.

The core German research partners are TH Köln and TU Darmstadt with long term experience in various projects related to water security worldwide while connections to leading international research partners provide access to state of the art expertise and current activities on Southern Africa. The ICWRGC will provide connection to the Global Terrestrial Network Hydrology GTNH and Southern Africa FRIEND‐Water network.

Specific Objectives

In the first phase (Definition Phase):

  • Establishing a local stakeholder and university network to implement upcoming phases.
  • Documenting the knowledge and information needs of regional and local stakeholders.
  • Assess local challenges and the demand for water security-related knowledge and information. 

In a second phase:

  • Develop a framework for assessing water security and drought risk in southern Africa.
  • Generate an online catalog of site-specific adaptation measures in the two pilot regions in Southern Africa, characterized by high vulnerability to hydro‐climatic extremes and low level of water security, in Waterberg (South Africa) and Chimanimani (Zimbabwe).

The preparation of a detailed project work plan during the main phase (2023-2027) would also include a component for expanding the regional academic network for water resource security by offering digital courses and webinars. This includes training of young scientists (MSc and PhD level) from South Africa, Germany and Zimbabwe.

Project Start/Duration and Funding

2022-2023, with funding by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). If approved, the main phase will go from 2023 - 2027.


Water Security in Africa (WASA) Stakeholder Information Event - online event 10.10.2022

13 collaborative projects are currently conducting research in the initial phase of the German Federal Government's long-term interministerial program "Water Security in Africa (WASA)". 

Ahead of the WASA main program phase, with a focus on research and education, this online event will provide a checkpoint to inform stakeholders at program level and review current progress of these projects.

 More information

Field trip to pilot regions in Zimbabwe and South Africa, March and April 2022

As part of the initial engagement activities, an ITT research team conducted a first field trip to the pilot regions Chimanimani District in eastern Zimbabwe and the Waterberg District in South Africa.

From this initial contact, data requirements were outlined and on-site evaluation of potential pilot regions were conducted.


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