Southern Africa is suffering from severe drought. Together with Hydrologic and Emanti, research & consulting company FutureWater is working on an operational service that provides timely and easy access to water availability and demand across the entire Maputo River and the Black Umbeluzi River basins.

In our ‘Innovations in Progress series’, FutureWater’s water resources engineer Evelyn Aparicio Medrano tells us more about the underlying models for the GLOW project and the great power of collaboration

‘In the GLOW pilot project, we clearly show where the demand for water in the region is greater than the supply, from day-to-day to seasonal trends. On this basis, the local authorities in Mozambique, Eswatini and South Africa can make quicker and easier decisions about water management and water security in the short and the longer term.’ explains Evelyn.

One decision support system

Within the GLOW consortium, the FutureWater team – which, along with Evelyn, consists of hydrologists Tijmen Schultz and Sergio Contreras – is responsible for the models behind the forecasts. Evelyn: ‘Our role is to bring all the pieces of information together: the weather forecast, the size of the catchments, but also the availability of and demand for water at different locations in the delta. In order to do this, we use tried and tested tools. We bring all the collected data together in one decision support platform called HydroNet. This platform provides all stakeholders with an overview of the data, presenting actionable information through a dashboard. The coherent combination of the different technologies is one of the features that makes this project innovative and unique.’

The decision-makers can also run different scenarios. Evelyn: ‘GLOW is and will continue to be a forecasting service, so you always have to deal with the uncertainties in your models. This is why we offer the possibility to run several scenarios. These scenario’s predict different outcomes based on the available data and possible decisions. It enables water managers to make more considered choices for the short term and longer term by providing them a comprehensive understanding of the possible consequences of their decisions.’


Evelyn Aparicio Medrano

Across borders

Another feature that makes the GLOW project unique is that the river basin from the pilot crosses three borders. Evelyn: ‘Collecting information in Mozambique, Eswatini and South Africa and bringing it all together gives us a much clearer overview. Water managers from the three countries work together to share information and make decisions that are primarily in the interest of the entire catchment – and not just for their own area. We make this transparent and clear via GLOW, so that all parties involved can use the right information. All the stakeholders have access to the data from the other countries. It’s one system. I think that makes it a beautiful and innovative approach.’


Users are at the heart of the GLOW project. Evelyn: ‘We only started modelling after the first discussions with the different authorities in the three countries involved. Our South African partner in the GLOW consortium Emanti has all the expertise and tools required in order to bring to light this basic information. We can of course come up with 10,000 wonderful things to model and show them in our dashboard, but ultimately the question is: how does our technology help local decision-making or discussions about water management and water security? Which data do our stakeholders need in order to make decisions? We seek continuous input from the stakeholders. This is very important for the further development of the dashboard, and it’s how stakeholders themselves become ambassadors for the system.

The challenges

There are also challenges in this pilot phase. Evelyn: ‘For our models we would really like to work with data series with around 20 consecutive years, but they’re very hard to find. With a bit of luck, you have a few years of data here and there. We need to collect all this data and analyse it, in order to be able to use it. But the biggest challenge is bringing the stakeholders together. For example, we had organised a kick-off for all three countries simultaneously. But in the end, we had to settle with a separate kick-off in each country. Now we’re also working hard on inviting all the stakeholders for the Renko Conference in November, where we will demonstrate the GLOW-dashboard and its capabilities.

Further roll-out

Evelyn is positive about the further roll-out of the GLOW project: ‘We’ve already gained a lot of experience as a consortium. FutureWater had already worked with both Hydrologic and Emanti on other water projects. We know each other’s unique expertise and what the other party can contribute to a project. Now we’re working hard to ensure that data can be exchanged even more effectively and that our system can communicate with other platforms. We also have an increasingly better idea of what information the different stakeholders need.

Find out more about the GLOW pilot

Africa faces immense water challenges. In the southern region, where the Maputo and Umbuluzi river catchments and delta’s cover parts of Mozambique, Eswatini and South Africa, drought threatens the area’s development.

The ‘Global water availability forecasting service to support water security’ (GLOW)-consortium works to address this problem. To find out how, we spoke to Ralf Linneman, Water Management Advisor at HydroLogic and project manager of GLOW, as part of our ‘Innovation in Progress’-series

Competition for fresh water

‘Drought exacerbates existing challenges in the Southern African region, such as food security and sustainability’, explains Ralf. ‘Population growth, economic development and the deterioration of water quality and availability brought on by climate change all contribute to increased competition for fresh water. But that’s not all. Take cyclone Freddy, for example; in a short amount of time, extreme heavy rains caused devastating flooding. For both the day-to-day and seasonal management of water resources, these issues require up-to-date information on forecasted water availability.’

The GLOW-project was initiated to address this need. Ralf not only acts as project manager; he was also involved in creating the operational system that GLOW uses. ‘The goal of this project is to pilot an operational service that forecasts – availability and demand – water resource information. Focusing on water stored in reservoirs, soils and groundwater bodies, the project spans across an entire cross-border water resources system’,  Ralph adds.

Dutch and Southern African expertise brought together

For this project, HydroLogic is working together with FutureWater and Emanti. Ralf explains: ‘HydroLogic specialises in providing decision support services for water managers through HydroNET; an open platform which translates massive amounts of data into useable information for water managers. FutureWater’s area of expertise is evaluation and planning: how do you optimally divide the available water? And Emanti is our local partner who understands all the main social, political, legal and cultural characteristics of users and catchments in Southern Africa.’

Transboundary water security

‘What makes this project unique is using and combining proven techniques to produce operational water availability and demand, up to several months in advance’, Ralf tells us. ‘This will help water managers to make timely decisions. GLOW will also provide this information on a transboundary catchment level. That means water managers from different countries work together to share information and make decisions that are primarily in the interest of the entire catchment – and not just for their own area’, Ralf explains.

‘Different existing models and systems interact with each other. One of the problems we had in this region was a lack of data; it’s hard to build and validate a complex system without it. That’s why we chose to work with techniques that have already been successful elsewhere. We also continuously talk to other HydroNET-users about their experiences such as what were their challenges and how did they resolve them? This way you can come up with a package of well working water management solutions.’

Co-creation with end users

Another way to gather knowledge is by speaking to all of the African parties involved: ‘Like the Joint River Basin Authority in Eswatini, an important stakeholder in this project’, Ralf says. ‘I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the end users – the water managers in the three participating countries. They are the ones making decisions on how to divide the scarce water. I often heard: “I’m missing information on this or on that, can you do something about this?” For me personally, it became my drive to support them in making water management in Southern Africa more sustainable. Understanding their needs and challenges is the starting point in achieving this.’

Pains and gains

Organising workshops is a good way to gain that understanding. Ralf adds: ‘We recently held one in Eswatini to gather regional knowledge. By using the concept of “pains and gains”, we identified the most important stakeholders, placed ourselves in their role and came up with direct solutions that benefit their interests. The fact that the local partners we invited also included their water stakeholder they work with, such as agricultural co-operations and disaster management organisations in the workshop was something I really appreciated. This not only demonstrated their involvement, but it also helped us a great deal to make sure that what we build fits well to the challenges they’re facing.’

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