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Water Demand Management  

Water Demand Management (WDM) is defined as “the adaptation and implementation of a strategy (policies and initiatives) by water management institutions to influence water demand and usage of water in order to meet any of the following objectives: economic efficiency, social development, social equity, environmental protection, sustainability of water supply and services, and political acceptability" (DWAF 1999). WDM, in practice, is further discussed in the theme, Conservation and Re-Use.


One of the major initiatives in water management in southern Africa is the decentralisation of management from a central authority of localised water authorities, with varying degrees of stakeholder participation (Nare et al. 2006). This is directly in line with the principles of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) as discussed in the theme, Governance. The translation from the concept of IWRM to action is still a challenge and new policies and structures are needed to better engage less powerful stakeholders (Nare et al. 2006).

Currently, no country in the Limpopo River basin has a comprehensive and operational nation-wide approach to Water Demand Management. Despite a lack of comprehensive Water Demand Management strategies and policies, the region has established some local-level experience with pilot projects.All four basin countries are discussed in the Sida funded Water Demand Management in Southern Africa project (Sandstrom and Singh 2004).

The success of Water Demand Management in individual countries can be roughly measured as the percentage of water unaccounted for, or lost to use or waste, between the inflow and outflow (UAW) (Gumbo 2004). On this basis, success resulting from direct investment in certain WDM strategies is evidenced by advances in:

  • Water awareness campaigns
  • Customer education
  • Water loss management projects
  • Water meters at household level
  • Water-efficient gardening
  • Efficient and informative billing
  • An appropriate management information system (Gumbo 2004)

Effective Water Demand Management is also linked to sound financial management, an equitable standard of water services (at least 90% of the population connected) and waste water recycling and re-use (Gumbo 2004). The table below presents water demand management performance indicators for cities in three of the four basin countries; no data was available for Botswana. The cities in South Africa and Zimbabwe are also within the Limpopo River basin.

Summary of Water Demand Management Performance Indicators.

Mozambique (Maputo)1
South Africa (Johannesburg)
Zimbabwe (Bulawayo)
WDM Strategy
No Yes Yes
Level of Service Reticulated (%)2
45 90 99
Level of UAW (%)3
65 30 20
Metered connections (%)
45 70 90
Average cost of water ($US/m3)
0.40 0.25 0.30
Essential water volume free/reduced tariff?
Reduced tariff No Free
Major customer complaints
Inadequate supply Billing Billing
Dedicated WDM section
No Yes Yes
WDM education & awareness programme
No Yes Yes

1 For reference only - not in the Limpopo River basin

2 Reticulated service defined as household water, connections that can have taps within the house or within a private plot of land

3 Gross Unaccounted for Water

Source: Gumbo 2004


The government of Botswana has launched the ambitious Water Sector Reforms Project (2008-2013). One of the objectives of this project has been to redefine and change the roles of institutions and major stakeholders in the water sector. According to the new structure, the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) is responsible for the delivery of water and wastewater services country wide (World Bank 2009). 


Until the 1990s, the water sector in Mozambique was majorly centralised with all responsibilities falling under the National Directorate of Water (DNA) (Barros 2009). With the Water Law of 1991 decentralisation began which including appointing Regional Water Administrations (ARAs) as river basin management authorities. However, weak institutional capacity and lack of capacity with the DNA and ARAs have been major constraints in the decentralisation process. As of 2009 only the Southern Regional Water Administration (ARA-Sul) is fully operational (Barros 2009). Although the decentralisation within Mozambique is quite extensive, the establishment of the ARAs, Basin Management Units (UGBs), and Basin Committees (CBs) is not yet complete and the effectiveness is currently difficult to assess (Barros 2009).

Stakeholder meeting with members of ARA-Sul.
Source: ARA-Sul 2009
( click to enlarge )

South Africa

South Africa has a decentralised water management system and has shifted water management from the national level to the basin/community level. South Africa initiated the process of dencentralisation of decision making and the implementation of Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) in 2005, but is still faced with challenges.


Water sector reform has been implemented in Zimbabwe with the creation of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and the Catchment Councils. There are seven Catchments, with one (Mwingzane) within the Limpopo River basin. In the study noted by Nare et al., 98 % of community members interviewed had not heard about the water sector decentralisation process (Nare et al. 2006).



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