Today the world commemorates World Water day. The United Nations General Assembly declared March 22 World Water Day following the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which recommended that a day be set aside to help focus attention on issues that affected freshwater availability and management across the globe and since 1993, the world has been observing World Water Day.
Each year, the United Nations selects a theme to guide countries in commemorating the day and this year the theme is Water and Wastewater. The theme draws the attention of policy makers and other players in the water sector to the vast opportunities and benefits that can accrue from better management of wastewater.
In most parts of the world, Zimbabwe included, huge amounts of wastewater are released back into the environment, largely into freshwater bodies such as rivers and dams, without being recycled, treated or reused. The United Nations estimate that 80% of such wastewater finds its way back into the ecosystem and in most cases end up polluting the freshwater bodies into which it is released.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority, being the Government’s lead agency for water resources management, in joining the rest of the world in marking World Water Day, wishes to draw the attention of Zimbabweans to the various issues that continue to affect water provision and availability in the country. In terms of wastewater management, ZINWA remains greatly worried about the huge amounts of wastewater that ends up into water bodies untreated. Cases of raw sewer flowing into rivers and dams across the country continue to be recorded, posing a real and credible threat to freshwater availability in the country. Dams such as Khami Dam in Bulawayo and Rufaro Dam in Marondera are some of the dams that the Authority has been forced to decommission due to heavy pollution largely from untreated sewer effluent. The Authority therefore takes the World Water Day occasion to call upon local authorities and industry to take serious and urgent steps to ensure that their wastewater is treated or is reused before it can be allowed to flow back into the environment.
On this occasion, ZINWA also reminds water users across the board that water remains a scarce and finite resource which need to be efficiently used if optimal rewards are to be reaped. The Authority therefore appeals to all water users to practice water conservation in their respective areas of use. This can be done through reusing wastewater from the swimming pools and kitchens for non drinking purposes such as watering gardens, flowers, lawns and where possible cleaning of vehicles and pavements. Users are also encouraged to seriously reduce the amount of wastewater they produce in their households by timely repairing leaking taps, bathing using buckets instead of the shower, brushing their teeth using water from mugs or tumblers as opposed to running taps and practicing rainwater harvesting. Individually and collectively, we can realise huge gains through water conservation which in turn helps us reduce wastewater.
ZINWA also calls upon the generality of water users to take World Water Day to reflect on water as both a social and economic good. The need to view water provision as both a social and economic activity remains paramount. In most cases, ZINWA, local authorities and other players in the water provision chain have battled to collect money from water users, resulting in their water provision capabilities being hamstrung. It is therefore incumbent upon water users to fully appreciate the need for them to honour their water bills and pay for the services they receive from water providers. It is only when users play their part, that service can be guaranteed. When users fail to pay for the water they receive, it becomes highly difficult for service providers keep their operations afloat.
So as we commemorate World Water Day, these are some of the issues that we need to seriously reflect on. ZINWA will always play its part as mandated by the relevant legislative provision and calls for closer cooperation between itself and other stakeholders in water resources management. We owe it to the coming generations to leave behind a solid and sustainable water resources base.