Total water use, Africa.
Photo: © DIWASA platform

IWMI to expand groundbreaking Africa Earth observation project

The International Water Management Institute’s (IWMI) Digital Innovations for a Water Secure Africa (DIWASA) project is set to enter its second phase. The new grant will enable expanded scope and collaboration and make actionable water information accessible to governments and other groups.

While Africa has significant but underutilised water resources, the lack of water infrastructure and good water governance, combined with poor water resources management practices, are causing water insecurity in most of sub-Saharan Africa. With the number of Africans facing water scarcity expected to exceed two billion by 2050, the continent needs multi-scale and locally relevant water resource management interventions.

The International Water Management Institute’s (IWMI) Digital Innovations for a Water Secure Africa (DIWASA), based in Colombo/Sri Lanka, focuses on water accounting and water resilience, providing information products to support the management of flood and drought risk. This work will now scale up. Water data availability is to be expanded in Africa in the four priority countries of Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Zambia. The project will focus on closer end-user collaboration with a key focus on targeted user engagement through product co-design sessions, training and fostering of continent-wide user communities.

With a new grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, which was announced in January 2024, IWMI Director General Mark Smith said DIWASA would build on the successful implementation of its first phase. “This new round of funding will be vital in helping us to further develop the role IWMI plays in using digital innovation to support improved water security across Africa,” Smith emphasised.

“Working closely with Digital Earth Africa, the project aims to enhance water security across scales in Africa through improved water data availability, accessibility and institutional capacity,” he explained. “The next stage will leverage innovative digital technologies for sustainable water resources management in Africa.”

2nd phase to leverage digital technologies for sustainable water resources

Digital Earth Africa (DEA) uses Earth observation data to develop decision-ready products that enable policy-makers, scientists, the private sector and civil society to address social, environmental and economic changes in Africa.

“I believe Africa can leapfrog development obstacles through greater adoption of digital innovations,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee with the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “Earth observation data and tools have great potential for addressing Africa’s water security challenges through improving water data availability and accessibility. This approach has been deployed successfully elsewhere, and we expect that IWMI’s Digital Innovation for Water Secure Africa project will produce invaluable water data and tools for decision-makers, entrepreneurs and policy-makers throughout the continent.”

The project is to build the capacity of end users, strengthen the DEA platform with water data and tools, as well as expand on water products already developed. This includes the Scale Invariant Water Accounting Plus (SIWA+) framework that allows users to call up water accounts for any area they choose via an online dashboard.

The prototype digital twin for the Limpopo River Basin will be implemented under the project, the first of its kind developed for water management.  The project is to test its uses for enhancing water management decisions.

Many countries in Africa are embarking on ambitious small scale, smallholder irrigation projects, but are facing the challenge of insufficient water data. In numerous places, data on actual water withdrawals for agriculture is not available. The applications developed under the project are to generate actionable water information for water resources planning and management.

More information:

The Helmsley-charitable trust

Link to Digital Earth Africa

Link to digital twin project in the Limpopo river basin

Link to Scale Invariant Water Accounting Plus (SIWA+)

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