Functions of TWRMU

In relation to transboundary water resources management, there are several functions that the Government of Malawi is legally obliged to fulfil, and others that should be implemented to achieve effective transboundary water resources management.  In order to support the implementation of these functions, the Government of Malawi has set up a Transboundary Water Resources Management Unit (TWRMU) in the Department of Water Resources.

There are five provisions of the SADC Protocol that impose specific obligations and duties on Member States.  As a Party to the Protocol, the Government of Malawi is legally obliged to comply with these requirements at the national level.  These are outlined briefly below.

Planned Measures

Article 4.1 of the SADC Protocol (insert link to document) sets forth the procedural requirements for notification, information exchange, and coordination among riparians over planned measures that may have significantly adverse impacts on a shared watercourse.

Environmental Protection and Preservation

Article 4.2 of the SADC Protocol (insert link to document)provides the mandate for Member States to jointly and individually protect and preserve transboundary watercourse ecosystems and the aquatic environment, and to prevent, reduce and control pollution and environmental degradation of the watercourse (including the introduction of invasive species).

States parties are required to take steps to harmonize their policies and legislation in this regard, and to consult with one another on the setting, monitoring and enforcing of joint water quality standards and practices to address point and non-point source pollution. 

Management of Shared Watercourses

Article 4.3 of the SADC Protocol (insert link to document)requires States parties to enter into consultations concerning the joint management of a shared watercourse, including the establishment of joint management institutions.  States parties are also required to cooperate on regulation of flows and participate on a reasonable and equitable basis in construction and maintenance or defrayal of costs of regulation works and to protect and maintain installations.

Prevention and Mitigation of Harmful Conditions

States parties are required to jointly take all appropriate measures to prevent or mitigate conditions that may be harmful to another riparian, whether resulting from natural causes or human conduct.  This includes regulating the actions of persons within their respective territories to prevent pollution/harm through the establishment and implementation of permitting/licensing systems.

Emergency Situations

States parties must notify other States and international authorities when an emergency situation originates in their territory and provide the relevant information so that all States can cooperate to prevent, eliminate, and/or mitigate the harmful effects of the emergency. The most common emergency situation relates to flooding, but severe incidents related to pollution are also a potential emergency situation in this regard.

The functions that need to be performed by the Government of Malawi in relation to transboundary water resources are set out below:


Effective transboundary water management requires coordination at the national level among the various stakeholders that have a stake in decisions related to allocation, use and development of internationally shared waters, including national government Ministries and Departments, basin and sub-basin structures; stakeholders and regional institutions the SADC Water Division.

Monitoring, Evaluation, and Reporting:

This entails ensuring compliance with the SADC Protocol (as well as future basin level agreements) and monitoring such compliance, with particular reference to:

  • Planned measures and maintenance of records of notification provided to other Members States and received from other Member States;
  • Annual reporting on implementation of Protocol to WRTC, Senior Officials Meeting and Ministers’ Committee;
  • Reporting on implementation of the RSAP III;
  • M&E of water resources to ensure compliance with the Protocol and transboundary agreements.

In addition to the specific monitoring of the implementation of the Protocol, transboundary water resources management must be underpinned by reliable and shared data and information between riparian states.  This requires that each of the riparian states has in place sufficient monitoring of quantity and quality of water resources in their portion of the basin to be able to assess the status of the water resources under different conditions and to identify and address issues with neighbouring states where the might arise, but also to be sure that they are meeting their obligations with regard to the implementation of the Protocol.


The Government of Malawi has active and meaningful representation on The SADC Committee of Senior Water Officials; and the SADC WRTC. To support these representatives, the TWRMU is responsible for ensuring that representatives to the various bodies are formally appointed and briefed on their role and mandate and that the necessary briefing documents, discussions and determinations of Malawian government positions are prepared and held prior to all such meetings.

Legal and Technical Advice and Support:

The TWRMU must be able to ensure the provision of appropriate advice and support to senior officials and the Minister on transboundary water resources matters, including legal advice on duties and obligations under the relevant legal instruments, options for implementation of those instruments and for helping create and implement basin-wide planning instruments, and appropriate legal and strategic advice on the establishment of new SWIs.


The TWRMU must support and enable communication on transboundary water resources both within government and with the general public.