Context and justification
Fresh water is globally recognised as fundamental to all forms of life, including human endeavors and the ecosystem. Not only is water a basic need, but adequate safe water underpins the nation’s health, economy, security, and environment. In the coming decades, no natural resource may prove to be more critical to societal needs and environment than water. The strategic challenge for the future is therefore to ensure adequate quantity and quality of water to meet the growing needs among competitive domestic, industrial, commercial, agricultural, and environmental uses.
There is evidence that water resources in many parts of the Congo River Basin are deteriorating. Our institutions appear to have limited capacity to manage these resources and provide adequate services. Demands for water resources to support socio-economic growth continue to increase, although quality services to meet these demands are largely lagging behind. These demands are not only expected from the nine riparian countries, but also from other water scarce regions across Africa. From a study on opportunities for hydrologic research in the Congo Basin (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016RG000517/full), the authors suggested an array of research hypotheses that meet some major questions about the dynamics of water resources in the Congo Basin. These hypotheses focus on: the source of the Cuvette’s waters and how these leave the wetland, the river discharge generated by historic rainfall, the connection between climate change and the rainfall-runoff generated by the migrating “tropical rainbelt,” deforestation and hydroelectric power generation, and the amount of carbon emitted from Congo waters. The hypotheses virtually illustrate examples of a mounting array of water resources related problems in the region of the Congo Basin and for which scientifically sound solutions need to be found. To address water resources problems likely to emerge in the next decades, managers and decision makers at all levels will need to make informed choices among often conflicting and uncertain alternative actions. These choices are best made with the full benefit of research that provides innovative solutions.