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International water issues
Mozambique shares nine river basins with other countries, as well as a number of aquifers (Table 3):
- The Maputo basin, shared with South Africa and Swaziland. The river flows through an area of rich biodiversity recognized by UNEP, having the status of a world conservation area.
- The Umbeluzi basin, shared with South Africa and Swaziland. The river is important for the water supply of the capital Maputo. A large irrigation scheme exists in Swaziland and there are smallholder schemes in Mozambique. The two countries have signed an agreement for water sharing, but this agreement is not favourable to Mozambique.
- The Incomati basin, shared with South Africa and Swaziland. Water is intensively used in South Africa, mainly for irrigation, and Mozambique has some important irrigation schemes too. The flows in the main river have been very much reduced in the last 15 years.
- The Limpopo basin, shared with Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The largest irrigation scheme of Mozambique, ChokwÚ, is located in this basin. Intensive water use in the upstream countries, especially Zimbabwe and South Africa, reduces the flows entering Mozambique. The river is now dry for 3 or 4 months in a normal year, and can actually fall dry for a period of up to 8 months in a year. There are also water quality problems at the border inflows.
- The Save basin, shared with Zimbabwe. During the 1980s, Zimbabwe carried out an intensive programme for water resources development in this large basin. As a result, the Save is now dry almost on a permanent basis.
- The Pungue basin, shared with Zimbabwe.
- The Zambezi basin, shared with Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is one of the largest river basins in Africa and the most important one in Mozambique. It accounts for about 50 percent of the surface water resources of the country and about 80 percent of its hydropower potential with the Cahora Bassa dam.
- The Rovuma basin, shared with the United Republic of Tanzania.
Mozambique signed and ratified the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Shared Water Course System Protocol in 1995 and its revised version in 2000. There are many agreements between Mozambique and upstream neighbouring countries regulating the use of shared watercourses. In 2004, a tripartite agreement was ratified with Swaziland and South Africa regarding the management of the Incomati and Maputo rivers.
Rivers in the south of the country are heavily dependent on water resources from upstream countries. The increasing demand for water in the upstream South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe poses a challenge for the future of water resourcesĺ supply in the country (NEPAD, 2013).