The country is now more than a month into the water year. The water year began on April 1, 2016 and like at any other beginning of the water year, all raw water users such as irrigators were expected to renew their water abstraction agreements. Water abstraction agreements are signed between ZINWA and raw water users.
These water abstraction agreements are a legal requirement provided for in terms of Statutory Instrument 206 of 2001. Section 2 of Statutory Instrument 206 of 2001 which reads,
“No surface water permit shall be required of a person who wishes to abstract surface water from a water storage works or share of a water storage works vested in the State of the National Water Authority for any purpose mentioned in paragraph (a), but such person must enter into an abstraction agreement with the National Water Authority in terms of subsection (6) of Section 39 of the (Water) Act.”
The statutory instrument is therefore clear that anyone who intends to use water from a ZINWA managed dam has to enter into an agreement with ZINWA. Any use outside the agreement becomes illegal and attractions prosecution in terms of Section 118 of the Water Act.
However, what makes the current water year unique is that it is coming at a time when the country is battling one of its worst droughts in years. The country has been severely affected by El Nino and did not receive enough rainfall to fill the water bodies as has been the norm in the past years. Some major dams are currently below 30% full yet the water year is still in its infancy. This means ZINWA will is now ceased with a delicate balancing act of ensuring that the available water is equitably distributed to fulfil the competing needs of different users. This act requires proper planning on the part of the Authority. It also calls water users to be responsible enough and appreciate their role in water resources planning. This role can be fulfilled when users use water in a lawful manner and when they pay for the service they get from utilities such as ZINWA.
Under the circumstances farmers and other raw water users are encouraged to visit their nearest ZINWA catchment offices and enter into agreements as required by the law. When one enters into a water abstraction agreement with ZINWA, his water allocation gets reserved in the dam and no one else will be given access to it. The water gets released only when the agreement holder requires it. ZINWA therefore cannot reserve water for those raw water users without agreements.
In fact, ZINWA is already engaging other organs f the State such as the police to ensure that only people with agreements access raw water. The Authority will therefore come down very hard on all illegal water users as it seeks to ensure orderly lawful access and use of water from its dams. Such a clampdown on illegal water use also protects agreement holders. Any illegal use of water distorts the current water demand and seriously compromises ZINWA’s ability to manage the available water.
It also deprives lawful users of their right to water. In simple terms, when one illegally uses water through practices such as siphoning water from irrigation canals or a river channel, what it means is that such a person is drawing water from someone else’s allocation since that water would have been released at the behest of an agreement holder. At the end of the day, ZINWA would ask the agreement holder to pay for the water released at his request, yet such a consumer would have had part of his allocation eaten into by the illegal user.
It therefore becomes incumbent upon all raw water users, especially farmers to have water agreements and avoid the inconveniences associated with illegal water use.