Jacqueline M. King

University of the Western Cape
Biological Sciences
Evolution and Ecology
International Honorary Member

Jackie King is an aquatic ecologist who was a researcher, lecturer and supervisor of postgraduates at the University of Cape Town for almost four decades. She now owns and runs Water Matters, a water-resource consultancy specialising in the science of integrated flow management of rivers, and is an internationally-recognised leader in the field.

She believes that the social and ecological consequences of the development of river systems should be addressed at the same level as engineering and economic aspects, so that decision-makers can assess the full spectrum of costs and benefits before making a development decision. In the 1990s she led the early development of methods to do this in South Africa, which resulted in flows for river maintenance being included in the country’s 1998 National Water Act: South Africa’s Minister of Water Affairs and this Act won the Stockholm Water Prize in 2000.

 In 1997, she led the flow assessment for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which resulted in the first recorded recognition globally of the rights of downstream communities to compensation for declining river health. She was global Team Leader of the World Bank advisory group on environmental flows from 2000-2003, and resigned from that position to take up one as a scientific advisor on integrated flow management to the Mekong River Commission (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Viet Nam).

Since 1997 she has also led scientific teams working on environmental flows and river system management for the Pungwe River, Zimbabwe; parts of the Zambezi Basin; the Pangani Basin, Tanzania; the Okavango River system (Angola, Namibia, Botswana); and the headwaters of the Indus River system in Pakistan. She has been contracted to do work of a similar nature for the World Commission on Dams, World Bank, IUCN, WWF, and has worked, inter alia, in Taiwan, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, USA, Guatemala, Australia, Mozambique, and the UK.

From 2009 to 2014 she acted as scientific advisor to the Government of Pakistan in a dispute with India over the Kishenganga Dam in the Himalayas, and in this respect testified at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in August 2012. In 2012 she completed for WWF a plan for setting and implementing Environmental Flows for the entire Zambezi Basin, and from 2013 to the present has worked with WWF-Zambia and the Zambian government on initiating this for two parts of the basin: the Kafue and Luangwa tributaries of the Zambezi.

In 2010 she was first editor and an author of the book Sustainable use of South Africa’s inland waters, which records South Africa’s moves to provide environmental protection measures for aquatic ecosystems. In 2018 she wrote, as part of a team of four, a Good Practice Handbook for World Bank project managers worldwide dealing with downstream releases linked to proposals for hydropower dams, vitally important for developing countries that are still contemplating new dams and where millions of people rely on healthy rivers for their livelihoods. She provided the ecological input to a World-Bank funded Multi-sectoral Investment Opportunities Assessment of the Okavango River Basin and similar inputs to a DFID-funded project on Climate Resilience Development Pathways for the Okavango Basin. She is presently lead ecologist on an EU-Funded project to provide technical assistance for transboundary governance of the Okavango Basin.

She frequently speaks as a keynote or invited speaker at international conferences, and has more than 100 refereed items in books, international journals and conference proceedings.

Her work in South Africa was recognised in the 1990s with a Silver Medal from the Southern African Society of Aquatic Scientists and in 2003 through the government awarding her the national Women in Water Award in the research category. In 2010 she was appointed an inaugural member of the National Water Advisory Council to advise the South African Minister of Water Affairs. In 2012 she was appointed Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town.  In 2016 she received the Gold Medal of the Southern African Society of Aquatic Scientists and was the 2016 recipient of WWF-SA’s Living Planet Award.

She presently serves on the Board of Directors of WWF-SA,the Research Advisory Panel of South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and as a Senior Scientific Advisor to the International Crane Foundation She is a SANParks Honorary Ranger, serving on the Regional Committee for the Table Mountain National Park region and holds the Training portfolio.

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