Water Scarcity in the Zambezi Basin in the Long-Term Future: A Risk Assessment

Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra

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The aim of this paper is to explore possible futures for the Zambezi basin and to estimate the risks of different water management strategies. Existing uncertainties are translated into alternative assumptions. The risk of a certain management strategy, which has been developed under a given set of assumptions, is analysed by applying alternative assumptions. For the exploration of possible futures, a dynamic simulation model is used. Three ‘utopias’ and a number of ‘dystopias’ are considered. A utopia is based on a coherent set of assumptions with respect to world-view (how does the world function), management style (how do people respond) and context (exogenous developments). A dystopia evolves if some assumptions are taken differently. Using the risk assessment method described, the paper reflects on the water policy priorities earlier proposed in an expert meeting held in Harare. It is shown that in only one out of the nine cases putting the ‘Harare priorities’ into practice will work out effectively and without large tradeoffs. It is concluded that minimising risks would require a radical shift from supply towards demand policy.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)185-204
JournalIntegrated assessment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • IR-58358

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