In recent years, the ‘river basin as a management unit’ approach has been adopted as a solution to water management. The situation between Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa regarding managing the water resources of the Incomati, Maputo, and Umbeluzi shared river basins is an interesting case that might need a different approach. These rivers flow downstream to the Maputo estuary where their waters are needed for urban water supply (Maputo city) and fresh water pulses for the estuary. The Incomati and Umbeluzi are heavily committed upstream while the Maputo appears still to have a relative abundance of untapped water resources. At basin level, the three countries fail to reach a consensus on the best strategies to accommodate multiple demands, particularly in the downstream area. The IncoMaputo agreement that was concluded by the three governments is unique in that it comprises two basins (Maputo and Incomati), allowing a multi-basin approach to the problem. However, the Umbeluzi was left out of the agreement. This paper discusses the possible benefits of a multi-basin approach to water resources for the three rivers discharging into Espírito Santo Estuary in Maputo. Using the provisions set out in the European Union Water Framework Directive (WFD) it is found that the three rivers of this study may well be suitable for implementing the District Water Management approach as proposed in the WFD.

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