United Nations
Commission on Sustainable Development

Background Paper

                       EXPERT GROUP MEETING



                       27 - 30 January 1998

                         Harare, Zimbabwe

                         Peter B Robinson
                        Zimconsult,  Harare

                           Paper No. 16

                         Prepared for the 
             Department of Economic and Social Affairs
                          United Nations 


                Peter B Robinson,  Zimconsult,  Harare


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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
- 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.


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,

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Date last posted: 8 December 1999 15:15:30
Comments and suggestions: DESA/DSD