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Home The River Basin People and the River Governance Resource Management



The Water Act (1998) is founded on the principles of “economic efficiency, environmental sustainability and equity of use”, and it recognises the environment as a legitimate water user (Makurira and Mugumo 2003).  As part of the act, the water fund was created to facilitate the collection of “levies, fees, government contributions and any other support towards water service provision”. Unfortunately the cessation of donor funds, the reluctance of farmers to pay for water rights because of their uncertainty about maintaining land ownership, and the belief that water should not have a fee associated with it, have resulted in insufficient funds and insufficient service provision (Makurira and Mugumo 2003).


Catchment councils and Sub-catchment councils are decentralised, stakeholder managed institutions responsible for the management of day-to-day water affairs.  The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) was formed as part of the Department for Water Development and is responsible for water management related to commercial functions (Makurira and Mugumo 2003). ZINWA is also responsible for water pricing and water conservation in Zimbabwe and has implemented an Increasing Block Rate (IBR) tariff regime (Hambira and Gangdidzanwa 2006). The regime aims at recovering costs associated with operations, maintenance, and ongoing capital improvements in water supply systems. There is no direct mention of recovering costs associated with environmental damage.

The IBR tariff regime separates businesses and industry from domestic users in Zimbabwe; this is because most industry in Zimbabwe is associated with manufacturing and construction, both of which consume much larger amounts of water than domestic use (Hambira and Gangdidzanwa 2006).

In Zimbabwe, everyone is entitled to water for primary purposes (according to the Water Act -1998); however, because of inflation the initial block in the tariff regime is set quite high, making it difficult for the disadvantaged groups to afford water. Inflation is largely responsible for the high costs of water, and the resulting inability for costs to cover operation and maintenance of infrastructure (Hambira and Gangdidzanwa 2006). 

Case study- Masvingo

In the city of Masvingo the greatest source of income is the water account, which has contributed between 25 and 40 % of the city’s overall revenue since 1995. Approximately 80 % profit was made on each cubic meter of water sold between 1999 and 2001. Because the water account is pooled with the general city’s accounts this profit ends up subsidising primary health care and infrastructure maintenance (roads etc.) instead of improving water infrastructure (Dube and van der Zaag 2003)

In 1999 Masvingo adopted an IBR tariff regime. The less-affluent households are trapped into paying whatever charges are assigned because there is very little elasticity in their needs (Dube and van der Zaag 2003). They must fulfill basic human needs related to water use and will pay what they can and must to fulfill those needs. There is more elasticity among the more affluent people because some of their water use is non-essential to human wellbeing. If higher charges were attached to the higher blocks of use this would encourage water conservation.

During the study in 2002 the average water consumer in the poorest of neighbourhoods was paying an estimated 10 % of their cash income for water. The World Bank recommends that no more 5 % of the income should be spent on water for basic wellbeing (Dube and van der Zaag 2003). 

Source: Dube and van der Zaag 2003

Insiza Dam, Zimbabwe.
Source: Schaefer 2010
( click to enlarge )

No tables are shown with tariff amounts because of the change in the value of the Zimbabwe dollar between 2006 (when the tables were produced) and now.