EXPERT GROUP MEETING ON STRATEGIC APPROACHES TO FRESHWATER MANAGEMENT 27 - 30 January 1998 Harare, Zimbabwe FINANCING SUSTAINABLE WATER USE IN ZIMBABWE: INSTITUTIIONAL BARRIERS TO APPLYING ECONOMIC SOLUTIONS by Peter B Robinson Zimconsult, Harare Paper No. 16 Prepared for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs United Nations ----- FINANCING SUSTAINABLE WATER USE IN ZIMBABWE: INSTITUTIIONAL BARRIERS TO APPLYING ECONOMIC SOLUTIONS by Peter B Robinson, Zimconsult, Harare Abstract: In the past, water investments have been largely driven by a supply- oriented approach. Water has been treated purely as a social good and has been significantly under-priced. This has given rise to shortages of funds for investment, which have limited efforts to redress inequitable access to water for household use and productive activities. The beneficiaries of large implicit subsidies have typically not been those that governments would have chosen to target. Zimbabwe has been no exception to this pattern. This paper summarises key issues relevant to concerns about equity and sustainability amongst 3 main categories of water users: - urban, industrial, mining (UIM); - irrigation (large- and small-scale); - rural households in the communal areas (predominantly subsistence farmers). Solutions are proposed which are based on economic principles. These involve integrated, holistic planning and economic pricing. In each case, the legacy of the old approach remains manifest in institutional barriers which are inhibiting the adoption of economic solutions. Institutional reform is thus an essential pre-requisite to putting Zimbabwežs management and development of water onto an equitable and sustainable path. 1. Background - Water in Zimbabwe 1/ The main farming areas of Zimbabwe receive 800-1000 mm of rainfall per annum, but much of the country is drier and can be classified as semi-arid. Zimbabwe is very vulnerable to drought, with the economic impact of major droughts extending well beyond the immediate impact of reduced agricultural production. Although the economy is relatively diversified and robust, agriculture remains the backbone, not least because 66% of the population of 11,5 million live in the rural areas. As a result of the segregation policies of the minority regimes which ruled the country prior to independence in 1980, access to water is highly inequitable. In the agricultural sector, almost all irrigation water is used by the large-scale commercial sector. In respect of household supplies, in the urban areas piped water into each house is the norm, whereas in the rural areas a mixture of traditional and upgraded sources (mostly wells and handpumps) is used. The water sector is presently undergoing extensive institutional reform. A new Water Act, to replace an act which has been in force since 1976, is before parliament, together with the ZINWA Act, which is intended to create a new entity, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. ZINWA is to be a parastatal, largely replacing the present Department of Water, (now part of the recently formed Ministry of Rural Resources & Water Development), and the Regional Water Authority (a parastatal responsible for supplying irrigation water to the sugar producers and other irrigators in the south-east lowveld). It is intended that stakeholders will be far more involved in the management of water than has been the case in the past. The structure of ZINWA thus incorporates and gives powers to river boards and catchment authorities. The rural water supply and sanitation sector is managed through an inter-ministerial National Action Committee, the secretariat of which is attached to the Ministry of Local Government and National Housing. 2. Equity and Sustainability In the past, the emphasis has been on ensuring expansion of supply to a growing urban population and to meet the irrigation needs of the agricultural sector. The emphasis on supply augmentation, with little reference to underlying economic principles, has led to a number of problems which are documented in subsequent sections. There has been more lip-service than action in respect of improving equity and scant attention has been paid to environmental issues. Inadequate pricing has prevented funds being accumulated for investment and as national fiscal pressures have grown the financial sustainability of the sector has been brought into question. As part of the sector restructuring exercise, much more attention has been given to clear formulation of objectives. Prominence is now given to -economically viable and environmentally sustainable development and equitable distribution of waterž. Social acceptability and effective stakeholder participation are also now considered important. In addition to changing institutional structures, to make these objectives operational will require a major change in attitudes, with much greater understanding being achieved of the economics of the water sector. 3. Urban, Industrial, Mining (UIM) Water Issues The 1976 Water Act vested the development of bulk water supplies in the national government (the Department of Water). Previously, urban local authorities had been able to plan and implement their own supply augmentation projects, thereby taking full responsibility for the provision of water to their citizens and industries. The rationale for the change was that, as the urban hierarchy grew, competition for water between different urban areas and between UIM uses and agriculture could lead to the sub-optimal utilisation of water resources from a national perspective. In the case of the building of a dam to supply an urban centre, governmentžs role was to be to construct the dam, with the town or city having to provide the necessary infrastructure to bring the water into the urban areas and to purify it. In practice, governments before and after independence had restricted funds for water supply augmentation, so that competition was bound to arise between different local authorities. There was thus an understandable tendency for urban local authorities to exaggerate the severity of their water situation at any point in time and to make projections of very rapid growth in demand. Given the division of responsibility, the Department of Water concentrated on choosing the best dam site for the supply augmentation 2/, while relying on the demand side on the projections made by the urban local authority. There was some degree of recognition in the Department of Water of the likelihood of bias in the demand forecasts, but the underlying philosophy was that the next dam would be needed sometime, so it would not matter unduly if it was built ahead of the time when it would really be required. In the interim, the water could be used for agricultural purposes and would also provide greater security for the urban area in times of drought. This would be all very well if resources were not constrained. In practice, however, the pattern that emerged was highly inefficient and imposed considerable opportunity costs on the national economy. This is because dams were built that were not used or were not needed by the intended beneficiaries (see box on the experiences of Bulawayo and Marondera), while other urban areas were neglected due to shortages of funds and planning/implementation capacity within government. In the case of the Mtshabezi project and Bulawayo, the main problem was the failure of the authorities to involve stakeholders adequately in planning and executing the project. The other main reasons which can be identified for these -mistakesž were as follows: - failure to recognise the potential of demand management to stave off investments in supply augmentation; - neglect of possibilities to improve the management of existing supplies, including reduction of losses; - failure to explore the potential for reusing and recycling water. A pervasive reason for these negative factors to be so dominant is the lack of adequate pricing of water. In the past, water was treated as a social good and was severely underpriced. Consequently, the basic incentive for demand management has been absent, and there has been no cause to improve management of existing supplies, plug leaks in reticulation systems or engage in the reuse or recycling of water 3/. The incentive problems have been further exacerbated by the urban centres not having to find the finance for supply augmentation projects - once accepted into the investment programme, the financing of a dam would be the responsibility of central government. Thus even if demand management and other measures were much cheaper in absolute terms, for the urban centre it may have been more economical to have government build and pay for a new dam 4/. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mtshabezi Dam (intended for Bulawayo) & Wenimbi Dam (Marondera) Bulawayo is a major industrial centre and Zimbabwežs second city (1997 population approximately 900 000). Following independence, against a background of 5,4% population growth, central government failed to mount any water supply projects for Bulawayo. At the same time, under the provisions of the 1976 Water Act, the city was prevented from building its own dams as it had done in the past. The Department of Water investigated possible dam sites for Bulawayo and concluded that Mtshabezi, south of the city, was the least-cost source of supply. The dam was completed in the early 1990s. However, the city did not accept the analysis of the Department, arguing that, whatever the theoretical costings based on yield criteria, to build yet another dam in the same catchment as the other main sources of supply was to make the city unnecessarily vulnerable to drought. The city thus refused to install the infrastructure to bring Mtshabezi water to the city. When the severe drought of the 1991/92 season brought Bulawayo to the point of being evacuated, despite the emergency measures that were taken, it was difficult for the Department to blame the cityžs unwillingness to install a pipeline to Mtshabezi because at that stage there had not been sufficient inflow for the new dam to conserve any quantity of water. It was only in the aftermath of the 1992 drought that the premise that catering for rising population implied building new dams came to be questioned. Conservation techniques, leakage reduction, reuse and recycling of water and judicious use of groundwater would be more economic solutions which would obviate the need to build dams and associated pipelines, or require a pipeline to be built from the Zambezi River, for a considerable period. Marondera is a smaller town (1997 population 54 000, but apparently growing rapidly in recent years at nearly 7% pa) in a wetter part of the country. With poor water management and limited investment, the town was also severely hit by the 1992 drought. Marondera impressed upon the Department of Water the need for the town to have a new source of water. Wenimbi, 20 km south of the town, was identified as the least cost dam site. The project was approved by cabinet and work was completed during 1997. An even more pressing requirement for the town was an expansion of its sewage treatment facilities. The sewage project document identified alternative treatment technologies: the biological nutrient removal (BNR) was shown to be no more expensive in capital and operating cost terms than the conventional technology, but BNR would provide up to 8 Ml per day of "reuse water". This was a significant amount in relation to raw water intake of 9,5 Ml per day (in 1997). If it is also assumed that economic pressures will drive the town to increase the price of water, which will be likely to result in some of the conservation habits developed during the drought to be maintained, and that the town improves its reticulation, it becomes clear that the Wenimbi dam will not actually be required by the town until 2010. Like Mtshabezi, the new dam is presently standing unused by the town, a monument to inappropriate planning structures, but unlike Mtshabezi it will eventually come to be used by its intended beneficiaries. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- The lack of demand management tended to be aggravated by another factor characteristic of urban local authorities: a reluctance to increase water prices, which it is always invidious to do. Politically, therefore, it may often have been expedient to maintain revenue flows in the water account not by raising prices sufficiently to induce demand management, but instead by encouraging water use, so that the increased number of units sold would compensate for relatively low prices. The unfortunate long-term consequence of this tendency is to instil habits of profligate use of water, which then justify the forecasts of very rapid growth in demand which are used to petition for the next supply augmentation project. Proposed Actions The pressures on the national fiscus are now such that the old approach to UIM expansion cannot continue. Urban local authorities are recognising this and are re-assuming full responsibility for water provision. There is now more widespread realisation that with most of Zimbabwežs urban centres built on the main watershed, future dam projects are bound to be located further and further away from urban areas. The costs of pipelines and pumps are coming to dwarf the costs of building dams. An integrated approach to urban water management is needed, this entailing inter alia thorough consideration of the following areas before supply augmentation options are explored, much less dams such as Mtshabezi and Wenimbi built: (1) Demand management: a multi-faceted conservation approach covering hardware (adoption of standards for and promotion of water saving fittings) and software (public education), underpinned by higher prices for water. (2) Optimisation of existing water: in most of Zimbabwežs urban centres, the reticulation system is old and the amount of water being lost through leaks is likely to be high. There has been no incentive in the past for municipalities to tackle this issue seriously, and it was only from the mid-1990s that leak detection and control began to be thoroughly examined in major cities. Relatively small investments could, within timeframes much smaller than dam-pipeline projects, produce significant results in terms of improving water availability within urban centres. With more limited scope, but even more easily and cheaply implemented, the optimisation of treatment processes is another fruitful field for increasing water availability. (3) Reuse and recycling of urban water: the most important element of the alternative investment plan for Marondera (see Box) was the credit given for reuse water from the BNR plant which was anyway necessary to cope with an excess of sewage from the town. The technology has long been proven as safe in Zimbabwe (Harare) and elsewhere in the region (Windhoek in Namibia has a very high proportion of reuse water in its supplies). Several other urban centres in Zimbabwe have the potential to reuse effluent water in this way. In addition to reuse at the level of urban centres as a whole, recycling of water by individual plants may also be economic and also now bears investigation. Ideally, the various possibilities should be fully quantified, allowing a water conservation supply curve (costs against quantities) to be constructed. It is only when all the options which fall below the cost of the next supply possibility have been exhausted that supply augmentation should be considered. Institutional Constraints Under the new Water Act and ZINWA Act, water resources planning is to be carried out by river and catchment boards. By bringing the supply decisions much closer to the foci of UIM demand, there is less chance of dislocation in investment than the examples of recent Bulawayo and Marondera projects provide. However, until the new institutional structure has been finally agreed and implemented, there can be no assurance that the outcomes will be economically rational. Economic pressures are such that urban councils will be more likely in future to evaluate alternatives to supply augmentation, in particular to integrate decisions about water and sanitation and stave off the need for new sources of raw water by adopting BNR technology for sanitation. However, really embracing demand management and optimisation of existing supply will require a considerable re-orientation of outlook and the development of skills which at present are somewhat scarce in Zimbabwe. At the level of the urban councils, the tendency to keep water prices below economic values will remain. Implementing long-run marginal cost pricing would generally require much higher prices for water to be charged. This would give rise to more efficient water use and slower growth in demand, and would also result in funds being accumulated to finance the next supply augmentation when it is eventually needed. It is difficult to convince consumers that their best interests are served by foregoing current consumption to allow a large fund to accumulate in the water account; why not postpone the funding decision until the project is due for implementation and raise prices then, or else borrow, possibly at subsidised rates from government or donors? In addition, there is typically a lack of trust between residents and councils, so that there will also be suspicion that the fund will in fact be used for other purposes or at the very least not be managed to best effect until it is required. The bias towards lower prices, higher levels of demand and earlier, more regular, supply augmentation projects is thus likely to remain. 4. Irrigation Water Issues The "blend price" is the current method of setting prices for bulk water from government-owned dams. The blend prices are calculated by adding the redemption of the historical capital costs of all Department of Water dams to the actual operating and maintenance costs and dividing by the sums of the yields (10% yield for agricultural water and 4% yield for UIM water) 5/. In an environment of high inflation, which rapidly diminishes the impact of historical capital costs, the addition of the costs of a new dam to the blend price calculation can result in a significant increase. The intention of the uniform national pricing implicit in the blend price approach is to spread the costs of new developments across all users, thereby ensuring that the cost of water from new dams is not prohibitive. This is further justified by the observation that those who already have access to water are the well off; new projects should give water to the poor at prices which they will be able to pay. The equity objectives of blend pricing are, however, entirely belied by the reality of the application of the system. Inadequate prices in relation to government commitments and collection rates as low as 15% of the water revenues due have severely reduced funds available for investment. For example, in almost all cases of the construction of large dams for irrigation, government has failed to come up with the funds to construct the supplementary infrastructure needed to make the water available to small-scale farmers. Blend prices play almost no role in providing an incentive to use water efficiently. They impose an arbitrary structure of cross-subsidies, with some users paying much more than the costs they impose, while others pay much less. In the agricultural sector, it is the large- scale commercial farmers and a very limited number of small-scale irrigators on government irrigation schemes who have benefited from subsidies. The unseen opportunity cost of the pricing system is that the great majority of households in communal areas do not have access to water to use for productive purposes. Fiscal constraints are such that even with better pricing and efficient collection of water revenues, government would still have difficulty financing the developments which are needed in the water sector. Private sector participation could and should relieve that constraint. Private partners have been found for various key agricultural water schemes - the Box describes the Tokwe-Mukorsi and Biri Dam projects. In both cases, agreements which were reported to have been reached by the private sector developers and the Minister of Water appear to have fallen away when the Minsteržs portfolio was changed in a cabinet reshuffle. This is most unfortunate, as the projects would have a major impact on the economy. There can be no excuse for the losses of income and employment due to failure to find some way of ensuring that the projects went ahead. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Tokwe-Mukorsi and Biri Dam Projects The Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam, to be built in the south-east lowveld, would be Zimbabwe's biggest dam after Kariba. With a capacity of 1,73 million Ml and a 10% yield of 423 000 Ml pa, Tokwe-Mukorsi would be 70% larger than the Mutirikwi Dam. The building of that dam led to the opening up of the lowveld for the production of sugar, an industry which presently employs thousands of fulltime and seasonal workers, produces US$90m in exports and has led to the settlement of 45 000 people in the towns of Chiredzi and Triangle. Similar enormous direct and indirect national benefits are expected to arise from the building of Tokwe-Mukorsi. The project has been on the drawing board for a long time. As a project to be funded by government, it received cabinet approval in 1993, but no funds were forthcoming. At the end of 1995, government suggested to the two main sugar companies, Hippo and Triangle, that they contribute 30% each to the capital costs of the project, in return for being assured of a proportionate amount of the water for 40 years. The companies proceeded to negotiate with the then Minister of Water on the exact terms and conditions, including provisions relating to the pricing of all of the public water purchased by the companies. The agreement reached was not acceptable to cabinet, however, and the project has not gone ahead. After a cabinet reshuffle in which the Department of Water was moved to a new ministry, it appears that options for financing the project are being reviewed from scratch. The Biri Dam project is located near Chinhoyi, in a premier agricultural area in the highveld. It was conceived and promoted by a group of 64 large-scale commercial farmers, who would be the main beneficiaries, although the project included provision of water to 99 small-scale irrigators and supplies to Chinhoyi and two local mines. The Commonwealth Development Corporation [CDC] expressed interest in participating in the financing of the project. Expected benefits were export revenues of up to US$ 7 million pa, over 2000 new farming jobs, large multiplier effects in and around Chinhoyi and consequent increases in government revenues. Neither the commercial farmers nor CDC were prepared to undertake the project on any basis other than BOO (build, own, operate), while government insisted on BOT (build, operate, transfer). At one stage it was reported that a means of overcoming this impasse had been found, but in the event the project did not go ahead. Failure to reach agreement on Biri resulted in the abandonment of a number of similar irrigation projects which were being prepared for support by CDC. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Proposed Actions The proposed solution to the first of these problems is to do away with the blend price system and replace it with scheme-specific pricing of water. To address the issue of individuals or communities historically deprived of access to water who would have to meet unaffordable charges under scheme-specific pricing, explicit subsidies, paid out of general tax revenues, should be established. Careful justification would then be needed of each subsidy and the problem of generalised cross-cutting implicit subsidies leading to unviable and undesirable schemes being implemented would be obviated. On the second issue of private sector participation in water supply projects, a transparent framework laying out the parameters within which build-own-operate-transfer projects can be negotiated by private developers should be established as soon as possible. Under the proposed Water Act, government would always retain ultimate control over rights to water. The issue is to provide sufficient assurance to private developers for investment projects to be financed and for government to come to terms with the trade-off between providing that assurance and having projects which provide communities with water and result in higher levels of economic activity, which translate into employment, exports and tax revenues. Institutional Constraints Implementing scheme-specific pricing would give a windfall benefit to those drawing water from old schemes which are already fully paid for. Government is particularly concerned about the large, multinational sugar companies in the lowveld, whose price of water would drop dramatically. The companies have only recently been forced to come onto the blend price system: previously they were paying scheme-specific prices for the bulk of their water. It would be a climb-down for government to go back on charging them the blend price for their water. The prospects for a clearly articulated framework for private participation in the water sector are not good. At a mundane level, there is not the expertise to produce the necessary documents and legislation, but this could be provided through technical assistance. More importantly, government has foregone the opportunity that institutional change in the water sector presented to create a clear separation between regulatory and supply functions. The proposed ZINWA will be both a regulatory agency and a supplier of bulk water to UIM and the agricultural sector and of clear water to smaller urban authorities. Separation of the supply and regulatory functions would have provided the base for a satisfactory framework for private sector participation to be established. At the same time, without private participation, provision of water will lag behind population growth and will increasingly become a constraint on economic development. 5. Rural Households Issues The Zimbabwe Rural Water Supply and Sanitation [RWS&S] Programme is widely regarded as being one of the most successful national programmes since the launching of the International Decade for Drinking Water and Sanitation in 1980, the year of Zimbabwežs Independence. The inter-ministerial National Action Committee [NAC] has managed a programme which has mobilised national and donor funds to implement an integrated project approach involving rural communities and employing robust indigenous technologies. Since 1980, access to safe water in rural areas has improved from 38% of households to around 70%, with similar achievements in sanitation. The principal technology used for rural water supplies has been boreholes fitted with hand pumps. The pump in question, the bush pump, is a remarkable locally developed pump, well suited to Zimbabwean conditions. Standardising on the one type of pump has had obvious advantages in terms of availability of parts and maintenance. However, until the recent development of an extractable version, the bush pump could not readily be maintained by local communities. They have had to rely on the District Development Fund, a government agency which has been subject to severe budget cuts in recent years. In real terms, the funds available per pump have dropped to one third the allocation available in 1990/91. This has led to a poor level of service and resulting unreliability of supply for the communities. At the national level, this has called into question the sustainability of the overall programme. Sustainability issues have also been raised from community-level studies. It has been found that the improved sources are often not used on a regular basis, as households find it easier to obtain water from traditional sources, such as rivers or unprotected wells. The boreholes tend to be regarded as back-ups during periods of drought. Consequently, the amount of water used per capita is much lower than the design criteria (8-12 litres per capita per day, as compared with a planned figure of 30 litres per capita per day), and the involvement of the community in maintaining the borehole is limited. Under such circumstances, it is appropriate to raise questions about the projects in respect of community participation, ownership and health education. A more fundamental question is whether there may not be alternative investment strategies which would be more efficient in reaching the objectives of improving water supplies for rural communities. Proposed Actions One response to the issue of sustainability has been the proposal that communities should contribute financially to the maintenance of bush pumps. On average, the amounts involved would be quite small, so affordability is less of an issue than concern about the justice of making rural people pay when urban people, who are generally better off, enjoy very considerable cross-subsidies. In addition, if communities are to pay they should be able to buy maintenance services from a range of suppliers and not be limited to a monopolistic government agency (DDF). The introduction of an extractable version of the bush pump is changing the parameters of this debate somewhat, in that the improved version of the pump makes it feasible for communities to take on full responsibility for the operations and maintenance of their pumps. Various "community-based maintenance" pilot projects are being watched with interest. At a more fundamental level, problems in rural water coupled with greater pressure on financial resources is leading to an important re-evaluation of technological choices. An option that has now been well tried and tested, but is yet to be widely adopted in the national RWS&S Programme, is the upgraded family well. The basis for this development was the observation that the key to the success of Zimbabwe's sanitation programme lies in the Blair latrine being owned and maintained by the household, rather than by the community. The water supply counterpart is a simple upgrading of the traditional family well, which is very widely used throughout Zimbabwe. The well is lined (often deepened at the same time) and a simple headworks constructed consisting of supports for a windlass, a cover and drainage to remove spilled water (often to a vegetable garden or fruit trees). Experience with this technology has shown that: - it is widely accepted and appreciated by households - once introduced into an area, the majority of households seek to build their own improved well; - households are willing to bear much of the initial capital costs, which both gives confidence of their commitment to the technology and allows public or donor finance to be spread over a much larger number of households; - maintenance requirements are minimal (some structural repairs may be necessary from time to time, plus periodic replacement of bearings for the windlass, which are pieces of old car tyres, and of the chain and bucket for drawing the water); - experience has shown that households use much higher quantities of water, because of the proximity of the well to the homestead; although water quality may not always be as good as water from a borehole, health studies have shown that the health benefits of improved water supplies have more to do with quantity than quality; - many households also use the water from family wells for vegetable gardens and fruit trees, this improving family nutrition and also sometimes yielding a surplus for sale. The last issue points to another weakness in the approach of the national RWS&S Programme, namely its exclusive focus on household water. Broadening the Programme to include or, indeed, give priority to productive water would not only provide households with the financial means to maintain water supply infrastructure, but more importantly would raise productivity and incomes in the rural areas. Such a shift should not involve support for unviable projects, but rather an opening up to capitalise on opportunities to include productive water which have been ignored in the past. By giving people the means to use water to generate income, many of the problems in the current Programme of lack of ownership and a lack of willingness to contribute to maintenance would be overcome. Institutional Constraints Taking into account the higher levels of water consumption from family wells, the average lifetime cost (calculated over a 25 year horizon) is around Z$1-$3.50 per cubic metre from family wells and Z$6-$10 per cubic metre from community boreholes (1996 values, Z$10=US$1 approximate exchange rate). In addition to the cost advantages, the externalities associated with family wells and promise of sustainability should make this a flagship technology for the national RWS&S Programme 6/. However, the members of the National Action Committee and the donors appear to be tied into - integratedž projects based on provision of communal boreholes. Resistance to the family well concept has been based on misunderstandings about the nature of the approach, the assumption that water quality would be poor and a less excusable bureaucratic adherence to the established planning criteria, which, it has been claimed, could not readily absorb the family well concept. It is government policy to decentralise functions from the national level to the Rural District Councils [RDCs]. It is expected that when this process gathers momentum and RDCs control budgets for water provision and work closely with their communities, the family well will be given much more emphasis in rural water supply programmes. In addition, the narrowing of projects to household water may start to give way to water supply for all purposes, including household needs. Putting productive water first 7/ would provide the resources and the imperative for users to operate and maintain water supply facilities efficiently. The sustainability of the projects would thus be assured. 6. Conclusions & International Relevance In Zimbabwe, water is not as scarce as it might appear to be in such a drought-prone country. Past policies which treated water as a social good rather than an economic resource, coupled with the inequities brought about by settler colonialism, have led to a high degree of inequity in respect of access to water, and serious concerns about the sustainability of water provision in the face of steeply rising costs of future supplies and a highly constrained fiscal situation. However, solutions based on economic principles would go a long way to removing the constraints and putting the water sector developments onto an appropriate footing. Economic solutions involve integrated, holistic planning and economic pricing in all sub- sectors (UIM, irrigation water and rural household supplies). In each case, though, the legacy of the old approach remains manifest in institutional barriers which are inhibiting the adoption of economic solutions. Institutional reform is thus an essential pre- requisite for putting Zimbabwežs management and development of water onto an equitable and sustainable path. Although this paper has dealt with the details of issues in Zimbabwežs water sector, the root cause of the problems identified are to be found in many other countries, developed and underdeveloped. These are a focus on supply without taking due cognisance of demand and a failure to involve stakeholders adequately in the planning and implementation of projects. The approach adopted was well-meaning, but, by flouting economic principles, often led to unintended detrimental consequences. The debates currently in progress in Zimbabwe and the institutional restructuring taking place could well yield some relevant lessons of more general applicability, particularly for other countries in the region. Notes 1/ Much of this paper is based on a study into Water Pricing Options and Implications, which was completed for the Steering Group of the Water Resources Management Strategy by Zimconsult in May 1996. 2/ It is only in the aftermath of the 1992 water crisis in Bulawayo that the possibility of underground water contributing to supplies of major urban areas is being considered. 3/ "Reuse" water is being used here to refer to purified water from sewage treatment that is returned to the bulk supply source to be mixed with raw water before being pumped back to the treatment works. "Recycle" water would typically be smaller-scale schemes, for example at the level of a factory, which collects and cleans wastewater and uses it directly again in the production process. 4/ Bulk water would then have to be bought at the UIM "blend price" (this is explained in next section). The urban blend has been so low that it has been treated as an inconsequential element of the final costs of water (in the past of the order of 3% of the price to the consumer). 5/ Yields from multi-purpose dams are divided pro rata, using the different levels of risk for agricultural and UIM water. When the Mtshabezi Dam, which was intended for UIM, was rejected by Bulawayo, the Department of Water had to redefine it as "agricultural", and, through including it in the agricultural blend price calculation, the cost of the debacle around the Mtshabezi project was passed on to agricultural users. 6/ While there are family wells in the great majority of communal areas, there are areas were hydrological constraints would require boreholes to be chosen or provided for drought back-up purposes. 7/ R Mbetu "Rural Development: Productive Water First" paper prepared for October 1995 Water Resources Management Strategy water pricing workshop, Harare.
This document has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.
Date last posted: 8 December 1999 15:15:30