National Policies & Laws: Botswana

A number of metals, such as manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), and copper (Cu), are essential to biochemical processes that sustain life (Hatfield 2008). However, these same metals, and a variety of others, can be toxic to aquatic organisms at certain concentrations. Repeated exposure to even low (non-acutely toxic) concentrations can eventually result in toxic effects. Metals can be toxic to humans as well, if they are ingested directly in water, or if they accumulate in organisms that are higher in the food chain and are consumed by humans (Järup 2003).

Dissolved metals are generally more bioavailable and toxic than metals bound in complexes with other molecules or adsorbed to sediment particles. The toxicity and bioavailability of many metals depends on their oxidation state and the form in which they occur. These characteristics of metals—oxidation state, form, solubility, and toxicity—are influe

The Water Act of 1968 provides the legislative framework for water management in Botswana. The Act established the Water Apportionment Board as the licensing authority. The following principles are established within the Water Act (Kranz et al. 2005):

  • The status of public water
  • The inherent rights of individuals to the use of water
  • The recording, granting, variation, and termination of formal rights to use or impound water or to discharge effluents into it
  • The obligations of those taking water to use it properly
  • Conditions controlling pollution of public water.

The Borehole Act of 1956 stipulates the records and samples which have to be kept and furnished to the Director of the Department of Geological Survey (DGS) by anyone sinking a borehole more than 15 m below the surface, or deepening an existing borehole (Kranz et al. 2005b).

Water policy in Botswana is guided by the Botswana National Water Master Plan (NWMP) developed in 1991 and reform recommendations made in the 2006 review. The following activities are emphasised in the National Master Plan (Kranz et al. 2005b; Centre for Applied Research 2010):

  • Monitoring of groundwater wellfields to avoid depletion
  • Promoting alternative technologies for water management and conservation
  • Management and development of water supplies by local communities
  • Improving co-ordination amongst Government institutions in water management activities
  • Completing Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) during project feasibility studies
  • Building interconnected water supply schemes to address drought-related issues

The Water Utilities Corporation Act (WUC) was enacted in 1970 and amended in 1978. It established the Water Utilities Corporation, a corporate body wholly owned by the Botswana government with a mandate of providing potable water and wastewater resources country wide and for developing the nation’s water resources.

A draft Water Bill is under review (Kranz et al. 2005).


Institutional Responsibilities

The government of Botswana has launched the ambitious Water Sector Reforms Project (2008-2013). One of the objectives of this project has been to redefine and change the roles of institutions and major stakeholders. According to the new structure the principal institutions responsible for the management of water resources in Botswana are (adapted from: World Bank 2009):

  • Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) -responsible for the delivery of water and wastewater services country wide.
  • The Regulator
  • Department of Water Affairs - “To serve the nation through protecting and developing the country’s water resources, such that the growth of the economy is not vulnerable to inherent climate variability or constrained due to inadequate availability of sustainable water sources of required quality.”
  • Water Resources Council - an advisory body to the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources on water matters. It will have the responsibility to allocate water resources among users, monitor water resources, and to develop water resources management policy.

At the local level, formal community structures are centered around the kgotla, a community meeting forum (ORASECOM 2007a). Water-related disputes at the local level are resolved through the kgotla.


Regulatory Framework for Transboundary Water Management

Botswana does not have a formal policy framework for transboundary natural resource management. However, the country has shown commitment to promote the equitable and beneficial use of international watercourses(SADC 2003b).Botswana has ratified the Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses in the Southern African Development Community and the international United Nations Convention on the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (SADC 2003b). Water Commissions have been established on many transboundary rivers. An International Water Office was established within the Department of Water Affairs to address issues related to transboundary rivers.


Regulatory Framework for Disaster Management

Within Botswana, disaster management is coordinated by the National Disaster Management Office within the President’s Office. At the district and village levels, disaster committees report to the National Disaster Management Office (UN-HABITAT/UNEP 2007).

Currently, there is not legal instrument on disaster management in Botswana; however, in 1996, a National Policy on Disaster Management was approved. The policy has four main components:

  • Mitigation
  • Preparedness
  • Response and recovery
  • Development

The Office of the President has overall responsibility for disaster management with disaster committees at district and village levels. Water Affairs and Meteorological Services maintain an early warning system issue bulletins on flow levels and rainfalls (UN-HABITAT/UNEP 2007).



The legislative, policy and institutional environment for water management in Botswana are over 19 years old and as such, require updating (ORASECOM 2007b). There are overlapping responsibilities between various agencies and institutional arrangements are not aligned with the catchment as a management unit. According to the SADC Water Sector review of national policies, the policies and regulatory framework proposed within the 1991 National Water Master Plan have not yet been enacted (SADC 2003a). The National Water Master Plan is currently under review there is a pressing need to align this with integrated water resource management and coordinate the structures at the international level, given the role of transboundary river basins within the country (ORASECOM 2007b).nced by chemical characteristics of water such as pH, dissolved oxygen levels, and hardness (CaCO3 concentration).

The Limpopo River basin in Botswana.


Current ongoing initiatives.

LIMCOM's current ongoing interventions being undertaken