Illegal water abstractions compromising Zinwa’s ability to plan

Of late, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) has had to battle with illegal water abstractions along the rivers, in irrigation canals and the illegal abstraction of groundwater. These have been classic cases where people circumvent the legal and administrative processes that are required for one to legally use water. These illegal water abstractions are bad for water resources management. They compromise the ability of water managers to plan the available water resources optimally.
Operations that ZINWA has carried over the last month to try and weed out illegal water use have shown the disregard that some people still have for water laws and this disregard is fuelled by the widely held belief that water is a free resource that comes after the natural hydrological cycle. But alas, water is a finite resource which requires sound management system and closely monitored use. It is only through closely monitored utilisation of water that the available water can be used optimally. This monitored use’s importance cannot be overemphasised especially in a year like 2016 that is characterised by limited water owing to the current drought.
For the avoidance of doubt, water use in Zimbabwe is guided by the Water Act, the ZINWA and related Statutory Instruments. The Water Act makes it clear that no one can use water for commercial purposes except in terms of a permit or agreement while Statutory Instrument 90 of 2013 outlines the procedures for the abstraction of groundwater for commercial purposes. It is therefore pertinent that each and every water user knows what is required from them terms of these legal instruments. The Water Act also deals with the attendant penalties of various water use deviations.
However, recently ZINWA and the Zimbabwe Republic Police launched operations in Harare where various bulk water dealers were netted for offences ranging from abstracting water from unauthorised sources, dealing in bulk water without relevant documentation and abstracting water from restricted areas such as residential areas. In the Lowveld, six individuals have since been convicted and fined for siphoning water from the Mutirikwi Irrigation canals that convey water to the sugar cane estates of Triangle and Hippo Valley. More are still to appear in court for the same offences.
These illegal water abstractions are bad for water managers such as ZINWA. They principally distort demand for water. For example, water releases from dams are done according to allocations given to those using water legally. So when the illegal users take the water, they seriously compromise the ability of ZINWA to plan its releases. The demand for the water becomes seriously distorted.
Illegal water users also deprive the rightful users of their water. As alluded to, water is released according to the allocations of agreement holders. When people then start siphoning water from irrigation canals, they are effectively eating into the allocations of these agreement holders, thereby depriving them of water which they are legally entitled to. Such practices may result in serious mistrust between ZINWA and agreement holders and also has the potential to reduce the yields.
Illegal water users also deprive ZINWA of the much needed revenue. Since their use is undocumented, they do not pay anything to ZINWA which also requires resources to maintain the very same sources of water the illegal users are siphoning from and to develop new water infrastructure.
It is therefore against this background that ZINWA is working with the relevant Government arms to try and come up with stiffer penalties for illegal water use. These illegal activities needed to be stemmed out as a matter of priority as they put unnecessary pressure on water as a resource and on its managers. This unnecessary pressure on a finite resource such as water is largely felt when we do not have enough water to satisfy the country’s water requirement. Illegal users are therefore a danger to the economy and to the social well being of the country. They need to be stopped.
In the same vein, the public also needs to be alert and report any suspected illegal water abstractions to the police or to their nearest ZINWA offices

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