Rwanda: Conserving, Recycling Water Is Best We Can Do for This Precious Resource

Where some nations wrestle and struggle with ecology versus energy demands in form of coal and oil, Africa has to consider something more fundamental: the need for water to survive! It has been said that water is second only to air in importance for life.

We can survive many days or even weeks without food, but we can only survive a few days without water. According to, about 750 million people, that is about one in nine, lack access to clean water.

More than twice that many, about 2.5 billion people, do not have access to a toilet. This grim picture demonstrates the urgent need of having access to clean water. It has been predicted by that population levels will rise by around 2.7 billion, close to a 40% increase, by 2050.

If this happens, extreme pressure will be placed on our precious and already hard-pressed freshwater resources in our surroundings. A report issued in November 2009 by the UN suggests that by 2030, in some developing countries water demand will exceed supply by 50%.

According to the UN, already more than two and a half billion people in the world live in the most abysmal standards of hygiene and sanitation. Helping them would do more than reduce the death toll; it would serve to protect the environment, alleviate poverty and promote development. That is because water underpins so much of the work we do in these areas.

In fact, the need for innovations in water conservation has never been greater. According to the World Water Council, although the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources grew six-times. The increased industrialisation and the added demand for water will have somber consequences on water supply in future.

There should be increased awareness that freshwater resources need protection and sensitize companies, individuals and communities to seek innovative solutions in water conservation.

Rwanda uses less than 2% of its available fresh water resources; there is scope for increased use of the resource in the economic and social transformation. In planned developments in energy, agriculture, infrastructure, industry and domestic supply, indicate that water demand will increase in the next 5 – 10 years.

The high population growth is expected in the developing regions of the world where already clean water is often incredibly hard to come by. The problems associated with water supply are not just about quantity.

A growing number of contaminants such as heavy metals, distillates and micro pollutant are entering our water resources, supplies , making conservation more challenging. Figures on access to water and sanitation in many developing countries vary depending on the source of information . The fact that many rural water systems are not functioning properly makes it even more difficult to estimate effective access to improved water supply.

Water is very essential to survival. Unlike oil, there are no substitutes. But today, fresh water resources are stretched thin. Population growth will make the problem worse. The global economy grows concurrently with its thirst that needs to be quenched.

Indeed water is life, not only is the human body estimated to be 60 percent water, the resource is also essential for producing food, clothing, and computers, moving our waste stream, and keeping us and the environment healthy.

Most of the health and development challenges faced by the poorest of the world’s population-diseases like malaria or Tuberculosis , rising food prices, environmental degradation-the common denominator often turns out to be water.

International World water day is almost here with us, March 22nd and this year provides an important opportunity to consolidate and build on the previous World Water Days to highlight water’s role in the sustainable development agenda.

Just like the many nations on earth and Rwanda as always joins the rest of the world in marking the importance of this vital resource, there is utmost need to create awareness of its recycling and as its conservation.

The water resources in Rwanda face growing challenges arising from pressures of rapidly changing demographic patterns, the demands of intensified socio-economic development, degradation from unsustainable and inappropriate land use practices; and the uncertainties created by climate change, among others.

Millennium Development Goals has set a target of cutting by half the number of people without access to safe water by 2015. Water Resources Master Plan derived from the Rwanda National Policy for Water Resources Management that was approved by the Cabinet in February 2012 has one of its objectives to provide an equitable allocation framework for water resources recognizing water as a finite resource.

The challenge we face now is how to effectively conserve, manage, and distribute the water we have. National efforts encourage us to explore the local and global trends defining the world’s water crisis.

As it is often argued, whenever there is less land available, and less water to make that land productive, competition for that land can turn violent.

Strangely enough, as Claudia Ringler, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington observes, “On a per capita basis, water availability is not that bad in Africa. In Ethiopia and Somalia, the water is there, but it is not getting to where it needs to be.”

Source: All Africa

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National Water Resource Strategy 2

The National Water Resource Strategy 2 builds on the first National Water Resource Strategy published in 2004. The purpose of the NWRS2 is to ensure that national water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in an efficient and sustainable manner towards achieving South Africa’s development priorities in an equitable manner over the next five to 10 years. This Strategy responds to priorities set by Government within the National Development Plan (NDP) and National Water Act imperatives that support sustainable development. The National Water Resource Strategy 2 acknowledges that South Africa is a water-stressed country and is facing a number of water challenges and concerns, which include security of supply, environmental degradation and resource pollution, and the inefficient use of water.

In the context of the need for growth, equity and protection of water resources, this Strategy identifies three broad objectives: water supports development and the elimination of poverty and inequality; water contributes to the economy and job creation; and water is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in an equitable and sustainable manner. The response to the strategic context and the imperatives set out above is delivered through strategic themes, which discuss in detail the context and challenges, key principles to be sustained, objectives of that particular theme and then proposes strategic actions to achieve the stated objectives.

The Strategy recognises that the manner in which water was allocated in the past was unequal and favoured only the white section of the population in South Africa. The National Development Plan (NDP) and National Water Act (NWA) collectively inform the intended means to redress past imbalances in the manner in which water was allocated. The perspective of equity in the Strategy is three dimensional and includes equity in access to water services, equity in access to water resources and equity in access to the benefits from water resource use through economic, social and environmental development and management. The Strategy intends to achieve these objectives through the use of the Water Allocation Reform programme and mechanisms proposed, which include water set aside specifically for redress, compulsory licensing, general authorisations, development support and partnerships to ensure that water is made available to previously disadvantaged groups.

The water resource protection theme emphasises the need to protect our fresh water ecosystems, which are under threat because of pollution from many sources. The need for determination and preservation of the ecological Reserve and the classification of our river fresh water systems will be a priority. This will assist to determine the nature and the extent of pollution in order to provide appropriate rehabilitation solutions. The Strategy stresses the need for the value of water to be appreciated and for the attitudes and habits of all citizens to change towards water and to work towards its protection. It is reported that climate change will progressively alter the environment in future and present new challenges. The effects of climate change include higher temperatures, altered rainfall patterns and increased occurrence of drought and floods.

The Strategy proposes the development of adequate capacity within the sector and the country for monitoring and effective detection and adaptation to protect water and to ensure sustainable water supplies into the future. Reconciliation Strategies project depletion in the water supplies for some water supply systems in the country. In light of the urgency to protect our water resources and the adverse effects of climate change, the National Water Resource Strategy 2 submits that water conservation and water demand management should be one of the top priorities, and measures to reconcile demand and supply in order provide for all our goals of a better life for all through job creation and economic growth.
Research published by the Water Research Commission (WRC) in 2013 indicates that Non-Revenue Water (NRW) for urban supply systems over the past six years was at an average of 36.8%, which is equal to 1 580 million m3/a from a total urban consumption of approximately 4 300 million m3/a. This research also indicates that in many municipal water supply schemes, the figures are even worse, with NRW in some cases up to 90%. The irrigation sector, which uses up to 60% of the country’s water resources, accounts for losses of between 35% and 45%.

While some municipalities and other institutions have begun to address the challenge of water loss, the National Water Resource Strategy 2 emphasises that effort must be intensified with specific targets set to reduce water loss. Water conservation and water demand management measures will have multiple benefits in terms of the postponement of infrastructure augmentation, mitigation against climate change, support to economic growth and ensuring that adequate water is available for equitable allocation. This requires appropriate institutional arrangements and effective governance.

The management and implementation of water strategies requires competent and accountable management. The Strategy outlines the institutional arrangements that will be established or strengthened to co-ordinate activities related to efficient water resource management within a defined geographical area or catchment boundary. The institutions will be required to perform their duties within a developmental management approach that values the involvement of all stakeholders in defining strategies and plans for management within their defined areas. Smart business approaches will be promoted within the total water value chain management and water footprint.

The National Water Resource Strategy 2 is developed within a changing environment and acknowledges that monitoring and collecting relevant data will not only affect the accurate assessments of the status of water resources and the magnitude of water problems, but will vastly improve planning and policy formulation processes. National water legislation (Section 68 of Water Services Act) requires the Minister to maintain a national information system to record and provide data on the development, implementation and monitoring of national policy.

The monitoring should not be done only for the sake of our national concerns, but also in response to our obligation within international river basins. Approximately 60% of the streamflow in rivers is shared through trans-boundary water systems. South Africa should ensure that Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is implemented in a manner that conforms to international water protocols and treaties, while being compliant with the legislation governing water resource management in South Africa.

A repository of water resource intelligence will facilitate better interpretation and response to the challenges associated with changing hydrological patterns, climate change, groundwater reserves and innovative responses for reference to the country and neighbouring states with whom we share river basins.

The National Water Resource Strategy 2 also strongly promotes technology and innovation to contribute to effective and efficient water management solutions that respond to the needs for water security and sustainability for individuals, communities, productive and strategic water use as well as ecosystem services. The research and innovation conducted by the WRC and other research bodies in areas such as wastewater treatment, water quality and water ecosystems, skills and capacity within the sector, climate change and water conservation and water demand management approaches have influenced the themes and interventions contained in this Strategy.

The Strategy promotes the development of a clear regulatory framework for water resources and coordinating regulatory standards and processes with other government departments and regulatory institutions. Compliance monitoring and enforcement is one of the priorities identified by the Strategy and legal, financial and forensic capacity will be developed to ensure effective prosecution for the ultimate protection of South African water resources against any illegal action by institutions or persons in contravention of the required quality and quantity standards.

The National Water Resource Strategy 2 emphasises that the achievement of the vision and objective will require support by strong institutions, competent and capacitated personnel with the requisite financial resources to implement interventions.

An investment framework for the Strategy, contained with the financial chapter, outlines the financial capital required to effectively implement all key programmes. This is done within the context that government, development institutions, the private sector and other funders will join hands to provide the necessary funding to support water resource management in the country.

The Strategy also defines the skills required to support effective implementation and outlines the Strategy that will
be adopted to raise skill levels through collaboration and partnership with various training and skills development institutions, including universities, Further Education & Training (FET) colleges and universities of technology. A collective approach will be sustained within the Water Sector Skills Task Team, which operates under the auspicious of the Water Sector Leadership Group, to identify the skills gap, and to develop relevant educational and training material and competencies at different levels.

The National Planning Commission’s Vision 2030 and alignment with National Water Resource Strategy 2.

The National Planning Commission has paid particular attention to water issues and how they impact on and influence our development pathways and opportunities. Table 1 illustrates some areas where strong alignment with the Vision 2030 targets and actions need to be made. Detailed plans and actions will be explored in the relevant sections of this document.

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