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Monday, 8 June 2009

Regulating Water in Zambia

A useful article by NWASCO on its role and the general position of the Zambia water supply market. 

Also do  visit their website to learn more. 

We have had some discussions on water issues here, but clearly much work to be done in terms of elevating the discussions. 


  1. I am glad that NWASCO is in place to supervise the provision of adequate water service and facilities. I find their site to be pretty helpful and informative. I was struck however by the rate at which new urban water connections are being made, here's what I mean:

    Over the last year the nation's water utilities managed to provide water to 74,869 more people than in the previous year, however the total urban population increased through births and migration by some 58,321 persons, thus reducing the total number of urban dwellers without access to water by 16,548. With right around 1.6 million urban residents currently lacking water service, at that rate the nation would manage to connect 100% of the urban population some time early next century.

  2. Yakima,

    This is a very important topic indeed. I feel slightly ashamed that we have not focused on it because if there's a sad story in Zambia, it regards water. Water access has actually been going DOWN in Zambia.

    A starting point is this important paper : Waiting for Miracles: The Commercialization of Urban Water Services in Zambia

  3. Cho,

    Good paper, I agree that it makes an excellent starting place for discussions on water systems development. Looks to me like the water utilities need a lot more metering, both at the customer tap as well as throughout the network so as to better know where all this unaccounted for water is going. With nearly half of all water being put into the system being taken out without any payment or record, it is no wonder that cost-recovery tariffs are too high for a majority of households, or that there still isn't enough money left over to fund network expansion.

    The paper also points out that most of the poorest households would benefit greatly from metering, because with the current monthly fee structure in most districts they effectively pay for more water than they normally use. Metering would also help users to budget for their water use, and conserve where appropriate. Beyond that it seems best to divide the tasks involved with water management along the same lines that raindrops use, and organize things within watersheds where possible.

    In the Netherlands, the area that is behind the dikes, below sea level but dry, is called a "polder". Traditionally, when an alarm sounds indicating that one of the barriers against the sea may be in danger of failure, everyone in that polder heads for the dike to help. It doesn't matter how you feel about your neighbor, if you share a polder, there will be times when you must work together or both perish. Water is like that, it follows the path of least resistance, so if not resisted at every turn, places liable to flood will indeed flood again and again. Of course flooding of rain-fed watersheds act differently from ocean storm surges in fundamental ways which should not be ignored.

    For one thing, when you successfully contain a flooding river within its banks in one place, the challenge becomes greater for everyone else downstream. For another thing, unlike enormous oceans, there are effective ways to intervene to prevent annual river floods from building as quickly or as high. These include a wide variety of tactics to recharge aquifers, primarily by slowing the progress of rainwater through the initial stages of the hydrological cycle using topographic and/or organic components. This puts water where life needs it to be in order to thrive, instead of rushing downstream carrying too much of the land's topsoil along with it.

  4. Yakima,

    Yes metering is clearly an issue. A number are making progress in that direction.

    Th other challenge is government failing to pay bills. A number of stories on this in recent days including some government department having their water disconnected. Clearly the CUs have decided enough is enough.


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