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Congo is part of:
Africa · Middle Africa ·
Water Basins of Congo:
Chiloango · Congo-Zaire · Nile · Nyanga · Ogooue · Zambezi ·

Facts & Figures edit
Capital Kinshasa
Neighbouring Countries Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania
Total Area 2,345,410 km2
  - Water 77,810 km2 (3.32%) / 332 m2/ha
  - Land 2,267,600 km2
Coastline 37 km
Population 57,548,740 (25 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.619 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA n/a (1995)
Nominal GDPB $12,960 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $300
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 75,511 km2 (3.33%)
     - Arable 64,853 km2 (2.86%)
     - Permanent Crops 10,658 km2 (0.47%)
     - Irrigated 110 km2
  - Non cultivated 37,853 km2 (96.67%)
Average Annual RainfallD 1646 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 1,283 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 0.36 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 31%
  - For Domestic Use 53%
  - For Industrial Use 17%
  - Per Capita 7 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 46%
     - Urban population 82%
     - Rural population 29%
  - Improved Sanitation 30%
     - Urban population 42%
     - Rural population 25%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends



Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 175 out of 177 according to the United Nations. The DRC is the wettest country on the African continent and home to one-quarter of Africa’s freshwater resources. Internal annual renewable water resources average 900 cubic kilometers. The Congo River is 4670 kilometers long and supports five major tributaries that create a dense water system with more than 20,000 kilometers of riverbank and shoreline and a catchment area of 3.7 million square kilometers. Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest lake in the world, stretches 700 kilometers along the country’s southeastern border and has a surface area of 32,893 square kilometers. Other major lakes include Lake Kivu, Lake Edward, and Lake Albert. Fifty-three percent of water withdrawn in the DRC is used for domestic purposes, 30% for agriculture, and 17% for industry.

The DRC’s extensive water resources are largely untapped. The Inga Dam on the Congo River in western DRC has between 40,000-45,000 megawatts of hydropower potential (compared to 14,000 megawatts produced by the highest-ranked hydroelectric plant at the Itaipu Dam in Paraguay/Brazil). The Inga Dam is operating at only a fraction of its capacity (1750 megawatts) because of lack of investment and functioning infrastructure. An estimated 90 to 95% of households do not have electricity.

In 2007, the World Bank reported that the DRC had one of the lowest rates of access to drinking water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa with only 22 percent of the total population having access to drinking water (compared to an average of roughly 60% in sub-Saharan Africa) and 9 percent to adequate sanitation services. Despite immense water resource availability, very little safe drinking water is available to the population, as the sector remains largely unorganized and present in very few areas beyond the capital, Kinshasa. Only 40% of the urban population and 9% of the rural population have access to sanitation facilities. The DRC’s water suffers from pollution from cities, industrial activity, and the oil industry along the Atlantic coast. Eighty percent of disease in the DRC (cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and bacterial and protozoan diarrhea) and one-third of deaths are related to contaminated water.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legal Framework

The Constitution provides that the state owns all of the natural resources, including water. The government has been working on a comprehensive water law for several years. The DRC does not have a formal water law. Various draft water laws have included objectives to conserve common resources, reconcile different uses, prevent pollution and harmful effects from floods, treat water as an economic resource, and prevent overexploitation. The 2002 Mining Code (Law No. 007/2202 of 11 July) gives holders of mineral exploitation permits the right to use subsurface water resources within the extent of land or perimeter granted. Under customary law, land rights include use-rights to surface and groundwater.

Institutional Framework

Overall, the DRC’s water supply and sanitation (WSS) sector is dominated by a maze of overlapping institutional jurisdictions. Although key government agencies are working with technical assistance from outside donors to develop a national water code and re-organize their duties around the code, many greater barriers to technical, managerial, and financial adequacy must be first assessed and improved after institutional reforms. Among this broad need for institution building, the DRC’s infrastructure is degraded or under-utilized, funding is inadequate, and water service providers are weak in terms of human resources and the ability to manage, monitor, and evaluate system developments and operations.

Key Agencies in Congo's Water Sector

Responsibility for water resources and water management in the DRC is fragmented among at least seven different ministries, coordinated by the National Action Committee on Water and Sanitation (Comité National d’Action de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement (CNAEA)). The primary ministries exercising authority over water resources are the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Rural Development, and Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Tourism.

The Ministry of Energy (MINE)– Department of Water and Hydrology (DEH) - Provides supervisory authority over REGIDES, the DRC’s autonomous public water utility, which is charged with responsibility for the production and distribution of water to primarily urban residential, commercial, and industrial customers. The utility’s operational performance and financial situation worsened over the years of conflict as distribution networks and production systems were destroyed or became obsolete. The state has not paid its water bills and the revenue Regideso collects from declining numbers of customers does not cover its operating costs; the DEH coordinates the Global Water Resources Assessment Program at the national level; MINE is a raw water supplier and derives most income from raw water sales.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Rural Development manage the rural water supply, and the Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism has responsibility for managing water ecosystems. The jurisdictions of the ministries often overlap and ambiguity over areas of responsibility is common. The ministries also lack financial resources, equipment and technical tools, and technical capacity.

Environment, Nature Conservation and Forestry - Manages water resources; Responsible for urban sanitation

The National Water and Sanitation Committee (CNAEA) - Inter-ministerial agency; helps direct and coordinate drinking water and sanitation service activities through its inter-ministerial structure; developing new national water code.

Company for Water Supply in Urban Areas (REGIDESO) - Public corporation responsible for providing drinking water service in urban areas; bound to state by performance contract.

National Rural Water Service (SNHR) - Inventories water resources in rural areas; constructs drinking water structures; trains the population in servicing and maintaining drinking water structures.

National Sanitation Program (PNA) - Only active in Kinshasa, but canto function nation-wide; responsible for wastewater, solid waste, control of water potability, vector control, and environmental hygiene.

National Directorate of Hygiene (DNH) - Develops hygiene policy for public health, vector control and communication; part of the Ministry of Public Health with regional health inspection offices and Hygiene Brigades at health zone scale.

Urban Sub-sector

REGIDESO provides a majority of the water distribution services to approximately 8 million urban water users. Access service differs widely in each urban area, but generally few adequate services exist beyond Kinshasa. For example, the city of Mbuji Mayi (population 3 million) is the largest city in sub-Saharan Africa without a drinking water system. Urban sanitation coverage is particularly paltry as infrastructure in urban areas remains dilapidated, underdeveloped and/or clogged. Effective adminstration and any focus on cost-recovery at the regional level is particularly lacking. Operators disregard rules entirely by discharging waste products directly into local water supplies, thereby limiting the supply of safe drinking water sources further.The government agency responsible for sanitation (PNA) only functions in Kinshasa, while other areas make due with private providers. In response, donor efforts are coming to bear on the fundamental problems of the urban WSS sub-sector – operation and management, as a prerequisite, or complementing infrastructure redevelopment and expansion projects.

Rural Sub-sector

Drinking water in the DRC’s rural areas is the responsibility of the National Rural Water Service (SNHR). The SNHR has 17 offices throughout the country, but has very few resources or the institutional framework to provide water supply service. Lack of maintenance has rendered most of the water supply infrastructure inoperable. In 2004, direct access to water still remained under 12 percent, with overall access improving to approximately 29 percent by 2006. However, the improvement in coverage may be distorted because improvements have only occurred in Kinshasa. In some places, like the Banalia area of the Orientale province, access to drinking water is only 3 percent. So little access to improved drinking water sources has fueled epidemics such as cholera and dysentary.

Virtually all sanitation facilities in rural areas are constructed and maintained by private parties such as non-governmental organizations and religious missions. Not a single government agency is responsible for rural sanitation, and the lack of governance, coordination, and financing is evident. Although the DRC has yet to prioritize sanitation, some sanitation improvements are currently active via donors that have partnered or are working through regional health zones.

Government Reforms, Interventions and Investments

The government recognizes that inadequacies within the legal and institutional framework are an obstacle to reform of the water sector. Lack of coordination and competition among different organizations has led to three different draft water laws, gaps in sector activity areas, and overlapping competencies. With the support of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the government is developing a plan for water-sector reform, including creating a water policy and a plan for restructuring the relevant institutions.

With the support of the World Bank, the Congolese government launched its Urban Water Supply Project (Project d’Alimentation en Eau Potable en Milieu Urbain (PEMU)), which is designed to provide safe drinking water to the country’s urban areas. The project plans to reestablish Regideso’s financial viability, reforming oversight of the sector and turning it into a commercial enterprise, enlisting the services of a specialized professional operator for five years, and repairing and modernizing facilities.

The DRC, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic ratified an accord in 2003 to establish the International Commission of the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin (CICOS). The Commission is the first step in an effort to coordinate use and protection of the shared water basin resources and strengthen cooperation in the areas of shipping and water pollution control.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Access to improved drinking water and sanitation facilities in the DRC is constrained primarily by poor coordination of sector activities. Neither authority nor accountability exists throughout the WSS sector as responsibilities are spread among at least twelve ministries and public bodies. Service delivery is roughly divided between urban areas and rural areas with very little coverage, if any, in peri-urban or semi-urban areas.

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Only 40 percent of the required funding necessary to meet the DRC’s water and sanitation goals is available through planned public investments each year. Such a large funding gap can only be alleviated by bilateral and multi-lateral donors. Nevertheless, the sustainability of individual water supply and sanitation systems will not be dependent upon donor funding, but reforms to the nation’s water code and the newly initiated operation and maintenance capacity improvement programs. In particular, service providers must control non-revenue water leaks and institute revenue requirements that recover the cost to provide service.

The DRC’s National Water and Sanitation Committee (CNAEA) is developing key indicators for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of current and future projects. The development of these important performance measures and their use in a comprehensive M&E system will help the WSS sector’s transparency improve, which is key to reaching the DRC’s water and sanitation goals. Finally, involving the private sector to expand services is required to meet the DRC’s overwhelming need for water access points and sanitation facilties. For instance, in 2006 the African Development Bank (AfDB) pointed out that with only four drilling companies, the country is grossly insufficient in drilling capacity.

Donor Involvement

Key donors in DRC’s WSS sector include the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Union, and the following governments via their aid agencies: France, Germany, United Kingdom, and Belgium. Donor activities range from institutional reforms and better cost-recovery to infrastructure projects that focus on increasing access to basic services by the poor. These efforts are in-line with the DRC’s poverty reduction strategy, and are generally well coordinated through a Water Management Sector Sub-Group chaired by MINE or the Water and Sanitation Thematic Group created to monitor the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.

The World Bank is supporting the GODRC’s 6-year (2008-2014) US $190 million project to provide safe drinking water in three of its largest urban areas: Kinshasa, Matadi, and Lubumbashi. As of late 2009, the project had restored 84 water points, built a new water treatment plant, and provided about 3 million Kinshasa residents with access to safe water. The African Development Bank is financing a US $100 million government project to provide safe water to small towns, targeting socially disadvantaged populations.

The World Bank has provided US $1 million in funding through the Southern African Power Market Project (SAPMP) and the Regional and Domestic Power Markets Development Project (PMEDE) to help the government improve the two existing power plants in the Inga Dam complex. Several members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including South Africa, Namibia, Angola, and Botswana, have formed the Westcor Power Project to support the construction of a third power plant that would provide electricity to all five countries. Civil society members have criticized the project as focused on the sale of energy to other countries and the mining and industrial sectors of the country as opposed to the population of the DRC.

GTZ is funding a 9-year (2006-2013) project supporting transborder water management in the Congo Basin. The goal of the project is to ensure that coordination of river-basin management among countries of the Congo River Basin takes places according to coordinated principles and strategies.


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Projects and Case Studies

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5 most popular publications on Congo
  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Nile River Basin ‎(54,587 views) . . Katy.norman
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See the complete list of WaterWiki documented publications on Congo

Who is Who

People working in Congo

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