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Access to water continues to play an important role in Botswana's development. (Photo: Hiromi Ito Ame/Shutterstock.com)

WAVES was launched in 2010 with one overarching goal: to support countries in producing natural capital accounts. Today, one of those early partner countries is proving just how far they have come.

Two years after officially completing the WAVES Program, Botswana continues to be a leader in natural capital accounting (NCA). The country’s most recent achievement is the publication of water accounts for 2015/2016 - the fourth such report in this series. With this latest addition, Botswana can now boast accounts that cover physical water use trends from 2011 through 2016, in line with the international standard laid out by the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA). This publication also shows that Botswana is well on its way to carrying out the commitments under its NCA Roadmap, designed by the country team to plan for the post-WAVES years.

“Botswana remains committed to natural capital accounting efforts,” said Ewin Itshekeng from the Botswana Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. “The Department of Water Affairs has a dedicated Water Accounting Unit with three full-time staff, and they are also supported by technical experts in other departments. But we must not become complacent – we need to continue building on past successes to effect meaningful policy changes.”

As Botswana’s experience with natural capital accounting has grown, so has the sophistication and reliability of the data. The latest water accounts include several methodological improvements, including better data on water abstraction and consumption in the irrigation sector, and stronger water waste estimates. The accounts were produced by the Department of Waer Accounts, and the data was verified by the Water Utilities Corporation.

A man fishes in the Chobe River in Botswana (Photo: Claude Huot/Shutterstock.com)

In terms of findings, the report highlights some key takeaways:

  • Water consumption in Botswana increased by 2 percent over the previous reporting period.
  • While household water consumption decreased slightly, relatively more water was used by industries.
  • The agriculture sector was the largest water user (48 percent), followed by households (23 percent), the mining sector (16 percent), other industries (7 percent), and the government (6 percent).
  • Seven percent more water was extracted from the environment in 2015/2016 to support the national economy.

While Botswana is on its way to preparing full monetary accounts for water, the lack of data on water consumption by self-providers – who account for 52 percent of water used – continues to pose a challenge.

Nevertheless, the water accounts have already provided valuable input into decision-making, including working toward the country’s long-term development goals under Vision 2036; the 11th National Development Plan; and Sustainable Development Goal #6 on access to clean water and sanitation.

In addition, the Centre for Applied Research (CAR) in Botswana - which has been a critical partner in compiling the accounts - has highlighted several policy implications of the accounts, including the need for greater water use efficiency; investing in non-conventional water resources; and informing the implementation of Botswana’s Integrated Water Resources Management Plan.

With climate change likely to make Botswana’s scarce water resources even more uncertain, there is no doubt that smart, data-driven policies are needed the keep the country on a path to sustainable development. Botswana’s strong track-record of water accounting is a promising sign.

Botswana is also finalizing a technical report and policy brief on mineral accounts for 2015/16 for diamonds, copper-nickel, coal, soda ash, and gold. The Energy Accounts team is updating accounts for coal and electricity, and the Department of Energy is currently undertaking an energy use survey, with technical assistance from the European Union; the survey will go a long way toward incorporating liquid fuels into the accounts. Finally, the WAVES Coordination Unit in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has produced a report on Macroeconomic Indicators of Sustainability for 2017, which will be published shortly.