Hydrology of the Limpopo River Basin

The Limpopo River basin is located in a region classified as arid to semi-arid, where water resources are under huge pressure from the environment alone, even before human development demands are factored in (CGIAR 2003). Therefore, water is seen as a limiting factor in development in the region (CGIAR 2003).

The hydrology of the Limpopo River basin is discussed in the following terms:

While this section of the Limpopo River Awareness Kit includes a great deal of information on water resources in the basin, these data have been collected from different national and international agencies, primarily for the preparation of the Joint Limpopo River Basin Study Scoping Phase Report (2010). This report is the necessary precursor to the completion of a comprehensive resource assessment that should take place during the development of a basin-wide plan for the Limpopo River basin. Data gathered and harmonised for this exercise will likely provide a more complete and holistic picture of the water resources of the basin.

The Motloutse River, upstream of the confluence with the Limpopo River. Source: DiPerna 2009


The water resources of the Limpopo River basin are shared by four countries, with significant portions of each country and national populations contained within the basin boundary. Estimates of the country area and populations within the basin are shown in the table below.

Summary of country-area and population of riparian states within the Limpopo River basin.
Country Area in Limpopo River basin Percentage of Country in the Basin Population in the Basin* Percentage of Country Population in the Basin* Percentage of Basin Population
Botswana 81 400 km² 20 1 000 000 59 7
Mozambique 79 800 km² 20 856 466 5 6
South Africa 184 150 km² 45 10 700 000 24 79
Zimbabwe 62 900 km² 15 1 000 000 9 7
Total 408 250 km² 13 556 466

Adapted from FAO 2004; IUSS 2006

*2001 Census Adapted from LBPTC 2010; Leira et al. 2002

The water resources of the Limpopo River basin support a large population and significant economic activities, including mining and agriculture, all of which depend on water for survival and growth.

Current ongoing initiatives.

LIMCOM's current ongoing interventions being undertaken