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Water Infrastructure: Small Scale Water Supply & Sanitation

Although surface water delivered through large transfer schemes and dams is an important source of fresh water in the Limpopo River basin, the arid regions of the basin are highly dependent on groundwater (as noted in Groundwater in the Basin) and the small-scale supply of surface water. The majority of users are informal small-scale users in rural areas with use governed by informal local arrangements (van Koppen et al. 2008).

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) is responsible for monitoring progress towards meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDG) related to drinking-water and sanitation. The most recent data provided by the JMP for each of the riparian countries is for 2008. The tables below provide the results as a percentage of each country's rural and urban population (WHO/UNICEF 2010).

Table 1: 2008 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme-Access to Improved Water as an Indicator.

Country Access to Improved
 Water Source1

% of Urban Population
% of Rural Population
Botswana 99 90
Mozambique
77 29
South Africa
99 78
Zimbabwe
99 72

1. Note:an improved drinking-water source is defined as one that, by nature of its construction or through active intervention, is protected from outside contamination, in particular from contamination with faecal matter.

Source: WHO/UNICEF 2010

Table2: 2008 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme-Access to Improved Sanitation Facilities as an Indicator.

Country Access to Improved
Sanitation Facilities1

% of Urban Population
% of Rural Population
Botswana 74 39
Mozambique
38 4
South Africa
84 65
Zimbabwe
56 37

1. Note: for MDG monitoring, an improved sanitation facility is defined as one that hygienically separates human excreta from human contact.

Source: WHO/UNICEF 2010

As noted in Table 1, access to an improved water source is highest in Botswana and South Africa with almost 100 % access for the urban population and 90 % and 78 % of the rural population, respectively. However, in Zimbabwe almost one third of the rural population does not have access to an improved water source, while in Mozambique this number is even lower. In terms of access to sanitation facilities (Table 2) all countries, with the exception of South Africa, have limited access to sanitation facilities with more than half of the populations without. 

South Africa

In South Africa the Limpopo aquifer, as discussed in Groundwater, is accessed typically by hand-dug wells, wellpoint systems, infiltration galleries, and boreholes. However, appropriate drilling methods are seldom used which could increase the capacity of the boreholes.

Water and the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in South Africa

In South Africa 21 million people lacked basic sanitation in the mid 1990s (Pallett 1997). The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was launched in 1994, to provide water and sanitation to all South Africans by 2001. This was defined as providing a minimum of 25 liters of potable water per person per day available 12 months of the year from a tap less than 200 m away. Regarding sanitation, the goal was one well constructed ventilated pit toilet per household.

The World Development Indicators from 2006 show this programme has been successful as 100 % of the South African population has access to improved sanitation facilities.

Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, 70 % of the population lives in rural areas. Water is consumed in over 90 % of cases without treatment in Zimbabwe and as a result, the most deaths related to safe water and sanitation occurs in rural areas (Nare et al. 2006). For rural communities, water is typically sourced from boreholes for domestic supply and approximately one third for agriculture and productive activities. Water quality, as discussed in Water Quality of The River Basin, is an important determinant at the success of rural water schemes (WDM at the Basin Level).

Almost half of households surveyed in the Nare et al. study reported water quality issues due to salinity or bacteria (Nare et al. 2006). Although no published cases of industrial impacts on water quality are known, acid mine drainage and metal contamination is noted from mines north western Zimbabwe (Nare et al. 2006).

Nitrate pollution from sewage has been noted in the Beitbridge area, while results from Mwenezi and Gwanda areas, suggest salinity and turbidity issues (Nare et al. 2006). Gold panning also causes siltation and mercury pollution.

A pipe delivering water to a nearby community at Diana's Pool, Zimbabwe.
Source: Schaefer 2010
( click to enlarge )