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THE KOMATI BASIN WATER AUTHORITY (KOBWA)

 

The Komati Basin Water Authority (KOBWA) is a bi-national entity formed in 1993 through the Treaty on the Development and Utilization of the Water Resources of the KOMATI River Basin which was signed in 1992.  The agreement was between the Kingdom of Swaziland and the Republic of South Africa

 The Purpose of KOBWA was to implement Phase 1 of the Komati River Basin Development Project.  Phase 1 comprises; the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the Driekoppies Dam in South Africa (Phase 1a) and the Maguga Dam in Swaziland (Phase 1b).  The construction of Maguga Dam marked the end of phase 1 of the Komati River Basin Development Project.

 KOBWA is now focusing on the operation and maintenance of the dams and related infrastructure.  There are four (4) Departments that sustain the operations at KOBWA and these are;

 

  1. Water Management Department: Responsible for planning and management of all activities on the bulk infrastructure, systems operation, systems development, emergency preparedness and other related functions;
  2. Corporate Support Department: Responsible for providing Human Resource and Information management support to the entire organization;
  3.  Environment and Development Department: Responsible for the implementation of KOBWA's Environmental Monitoring program for the Komati Basin as well as the Resettlement program for persons affected by the construction of the Komati River Basin Project;
  4. Finance Department: Responsible for the full control of; repayment of loans, budgeting and financing development projects and procurement functions.

 

The Komati River Basin is an important source of water for the Republic of South Africa, the Kingdom of Swaziland and the Republic of Mozambique. It contributes some 23% of inflow to the greater Incomati River catchment.  A development plan of water resources was formulated in the 1980s under the Joint Permanent Technical Commission (JPTC), which was appointed by South Africa and Swaziland to make provision for ever increasing water demands.

Mozambique's share from the Komati River catchment will be determined after completion of current studies of the greater Incomati water sources and demands.  The long term plan, which acknowledges Mozambique's right to an equitable share of the catchment yield, is being undertaken in phases, to cater for afforestation, in stream flow requirements and consumption by primary users (domestic and livestock), a well as the irrigated agriculture, mining and industrial sectors.  Phase 1 comprised of Driekoppies Dam in South Africa on the Lomati River (Phase 1a), where a portion of the reservoir lies in Swaziland and the Maguga Dam (phase 1b), on the Komati River in Swaziland.

Two treaties were concluded in 1992 between South Africa and Swaziland to give effect to these development plans.  Mozambique agreed to the implementation of phase 1 of the Komati Project subject to the three Parties undertaking a joint study of the greater Incomati River Basin and adherence to interim agreements on cross-border flows at Ressano Garcia, which will be re-evaluated on completion of the study.  The first of these treaties established the Joint Water Commission (JWC) to act as technical adviser to the two Parties on all matters relating to the development and utilization of water resources of common interest.

The second Treaty deals with the implementation of phase 1 of the development, sanctioning the establishment of the bi-national Komati Basin Water Authority (KOBWA) as the implementing agent, the sharing of resources and the apportionment of costs.  The benefits from Driekoppies Dam were seen to be downstream in South Africa, hence South Africa bore the total cost of Driekoppies Dam (R488 million).  Both Parties benefit from the Maguga Dam project and the cost sharing was approximately 40% to Swaziland and 60% to South Africa.

These Treaties were ratified in the late 1992, followed by the appointment of the KOBWA Board and Chief Executive Officer. The construction of Driekoppies Dam commenced in July of the following year.  In November 1993, Swaziland made a commitment to start the construction of Maguga Dam before the end of 1996, as seen in the commencement of construction of the northern access road.  Maguga was completed in mid-2001, with water being stored in late 2000.

The Komati River Basin has a total catchment area of about 11 200km2 from its headwaters to its confluence with the Crocodile River at Komatipoort. The natural mean annual runoff (before afforestation) of the catchment is estimated to be about 1 430 million cubic metres, ofwhich the Lomati River contributes about 364 million cubic metres of approximately 25%.  

RSA Official Yearbook 1993

In 1992, the projections for land use dependent on water from the protion of the Komati River Basin down to the confluence with the Crocodile River were:

*         A population of 460 000 people

*         Irrigation of 38 700ha including 9 500ha in the Mbuluzi River Basin in Swaziland;

*         Providing for 123 000ha of existing and additional afforestation;

*         Limited mining activity

*         Service industries (mostly small) except for water exported to the thermal power stations located in the Highveld region of South Africa and the sugar mill at Mhlume in Swaziland.

Existing storage reservoirs of significant size are the Nooigedacht, Vygeboom, Barberton, Shiyalongubo Dams in South Africa and the Sand River Dam in Swaziland.  With the exception of the thermal power stations, most of the consumers were dependent on unregulated flow of the Lomati and Komati Rivers before the Project.

The Development of the water resources of the Komati River basin upstream of the Mozambique border will ultimately result in the provision of a total water storage volume varying from about 1 200 to 1 900 million cubic metres, depending on the final selection for implementation of possible development phases.  These phases provide for the possible construction of seven new dams and one significant river development in primary water use and irrigation in South Africa and Swaziland, as well as avail water for future afforestation, industrial and mining water demands.  Equally important is meeting the obligation to provide Mozambique with its equitable share of water from the basin.