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Zambia is part of:
Africa · Eastern Africa · Southern Africa ·
Water Basins of Zambia:
Congo-Zaire · Zambezi ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Lusaka
Neighbouring Countries Angola, Botswana, Congo , Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe
Total Area 752,614 km2
  - Water 11,890 km2 (1.58%) / 158 m2/ha
  - Land 740,724 km2
Coastline 0 km
Population 11,668,460 (15.5 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.453 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 50.8 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $15,230 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $1,500
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 52,073 km2 (7.03%)
     - Arable 51,777 km2 (6.99%)
     - Permanent Crops 296 km2 (0.04%)
     - Irrigated 1,560 km2
  - Non cultivated 688,651 km2 (92.97%)
Average Annual RainfallD 1020 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 105.2 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 1.74 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 76%
  - For Domestic Use 17%
  - For Industrial Use 7%
  - Per Capita 163 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 58%
     - Urban population 90%
     - Rural population 40%
  - Improved Sanitation 55%
     - Urban population 59%
     - Rural population 52%
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

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Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa surrounded by Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The country lies mainly in the Zambezi River basin, and partially in the Congo River basin in the north. Zambia has a population of 11.7 million (2006) and a surface area of 752,614 km2. It sits on the high plateau of Central Africa at an average altitude of 1,200 metres, and enjoys a mild, subtropical climate. Annual average rainfall ranges from 600 mm in the south to 1,500 mm in the north.

Climate - Increasing Frequency of Extreme Events

A 2007 survey concluded that in the previous nine years, local communities had been exposed to extreme climatic variation that included droughts, floods, increased rain intensity, extreme heatwaves and a shorter rainy season. In fact, between 2000 and 2007 Zambia experienced unusually unstable weather, with a sequence of two flood years, two drought years and two years with normal rainfall. Figure 1.3 shows fluctuations in rainfall in Zambia between 1975 and 2006. Because of a lack of data, it is difficult to assess how such climate change will affect the country’s water resources

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Zambia lies within the Zambezi and Congo River Basins and has three main rivers, four large lakes, and roughly 1700 dams. Wetlands and dambos (shallow grassy wetlands in plateau areas) cover approximately 5% of Zambia’s total land area. The country has over 80 cubic kilometers of annual internal renewable water resources. Agriculture accounts for 76% of water use; domestic use accounts for another 17%, and industry the final 7%. Mean annual rainfall is 1020 millimeters, with the totals and intra-seasonal distribution varying greatly from year to year. Droughts and flooding are common.

Zambia’s surface water potential totals some 100 billion m3, with the Zambezi River contributing over 60% of the runoff. Consequently, as a major stakeholder in the Zambezi River Authority, along with Zimbabwe, Zambia is helping establish the Zambezi Watercourses Commission. Groundwater is also a major resource, especially during the dry season. Although no accurate assessment is available, the average renewable groundwater potential is estimated to be 49.6 billion m3. By far the largest user of water is hydropower generation. Of about 38.5 billion m3 of overall water withdrawal, 36.3 billion m3 is used to generate electricity for internal use and export to neighbouring countries. Some 70% of the country’s hydropower potential awaits development. There is as yet no real competition for water among the various sectors.

Zambia possesses between 423,000–523,000 hectares of irrigable land, of which between 100,000–150,000 hectares is actually irrigated. Most of the irrigated land lies along railway lines, above karstic areas for groundwater, adjacent to water bodies, and in dambos and wetlands. The main irrigation technologies are gravity systems (stream diversions and furrows), buckets, drip systems, sprinklers, rain guns, and center pivots. Mechanized irrigation systems are operated by large-scale agri-business estates, individual commercial farms, contract farmer and outgrower groups, and associations of farmers. Zambia has 40,000 hectares of large-scale irrigation schemes used by commercial enterprises, with a single farm (Nakambala Sugar Estate) accounting for 11,350 hectares. The introduction of treadle pumps and water harvesting techniques have increased the use of irrigation by small-scale and subsistence farmers.

With irrigation expanding and awareness on environmental issues growing, water released from hydropower stations will need to be regulated so that the needs of agriculture and the environment are both served. The government recognizes the role of integrated water resources management (IWRM) in meeting the needs of all users, but successful application of the IWRM approach will require prioritizing investment and strengthening the capacity to manage national and transboundary water resources. Around 40% of Zambia’s population lives in urban settings. The capital, Lusaka, and the Copperbelt region in the north-west are the most densely populated areas. In 2005, 86% of people living in towns had access to safe water, compared with only 37% in rural areas. For the same year, just 13% of the rural population had access to improved sanitation, whereas there was 41% coverage in urban areas.

Ninety percent of Zambia’s urban population has access to improved drinking water. In rural areas, only 41% of the population has access to improved drinking water. In urban areas like Lusaka where the water table is close to the surface, shallow wells are prone to contamination, and the incidence of water-borne diseases has increased with the growing population. In mining areas, the unrestricted discharge of effluents has polluted some local water resources.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legislative Framework

Zambia’s Water Act (1996) vests ownership of Zambia’s water resources (excluding those that form international boundaries) in the President. There are no general regulations addressing the management of the country’s water resources, although some limited regulations exist to set fees and administer the provision of services. The Water Act prohibits pollution of public water, and Water Pollution Control (Effluent and Waste Water) regulations (1993) require licenses for the discharge of effluents into water bodies and sources.

Under the Water Act, landowners have rights to the private and public water on their land free of charge, whether for primary, secondary (irrigation and aquaculture), or tertiary (industry and mechanical) use. Any person who wishes to store or divert water from public streams and waterways for primary, secondary, or tertiary use must obtain permission from the Water Board. Water for industrial, commercial, and urban uses is subject to special permitting requirements.

The Water Act required all persons claiming rights to public water for secondary or tertiary uses to file a claim with the Water Register within 12 months of the enactment of the law (i.e., by 1997) for registration of the right. The Water Act voids any claims to water that were not made within the 12-month period. The requirement was not well known and there was inadequate institutional capacity to enforce compliance.

Zambia’s Water Policy (1994) commits the government to sustainable water development to facilitate an equitable provision of adequate quality and quantity of water for all users at an acceptable cost. The Water Policy recognizes the need to establish a well-defined institutional structure, including components for water resources management, rural water supply and sanitation, and urban water supply and sanitation. The policy also provided for adequate, safe and cost-effective water supply and sanitation services while assuring environmental protection.

Institutional Framework
Key Agencies in Zambia's Water Sector
Key Agencies in Zambia's Water Sector

The government institutions responsible for water resources are the Ministry of Energy and Water Development (MEWD), which includes the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and the Water Development Board of Zambia; the Ministry of Local Government and Housing; and the Zambian National Water Supply and Sanitation Council. The DWA is responsible for developing and managing water resources. Most urban water supplies are run by local authorities, and most rural supplies are managed by the DWA. On customary land, traditional leaders are responsible for administering access to and use of water, in cooperation with local authorities.

The Environmental Council of Zambia is a statutory body created under the Environmental Protection and Pollution Control Act of 1990 with a mandate to protect natural resources, including water, from environmental degradation.

Government Reforms and Interventions

In carrying out its reforms in the water sector, the Government of Zambia started with the water supply and sanitation subsector, enacting the Water Supply and Sanitation Act in 1997. It later turned to the water resources management subsector with the Water Resources Action Programme in 2001. The programme developed a Water Resources Management Bill, a new Water Resources Institutional Framework, an improved Water Resources Management Information System and a draft action plan on addressing challenges related to water resources. Moreover, the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP, 2006–2010) is specifically geared towards applying IWRM nationwide. To assist in carrying out the water-related programmes in the FNDP, in 2008 the government adopted an IWRM and water efficiency implementation plan, with crucial stakeholder participation (which also took place when the FNDP was being drawn up). These processes are intended to help Zambia plan and manage its water resources to further socio-economic development.

Stakeholder participation was also secured through the formation of the Water Sector Advisory Group, which consists of four subsector advisory groups: (a) water supply and sanitation, (b) water resources management, (c) water resources infrastructure development, and (d) monitoring, evaluation and capacity building. The subsector groups provide for inclusion of stakeholders from outside the water sector, such as the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, which chairs the subgroup on monitoring, evaluation and capacity building. Inclusion of outside stakeholders in planning and decision-making is important for achieving an integrated approach to water management and for long term sustainability of decisions.

The Ministry of Energy and Water Development (MEWD) is working to improve the quality and quantity of drinking water in urban areas through the World Bank-funded $23 million Zambia Water Sector Performance Improvement Project (2006–2012). The project provides for improvement of infrastructure for water delivery and management, and institutional capacity-building to prepare the Ministry of Local Government and Housing to manage a "SWAP" (sector-wide program financing) program. The GOZ launched the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (NRWSSP) in 2007 with the objective of providing sustainable and equitable access to safe water. The GOZ has committed to increased investment in water supply and sanitation facilities, building community awareness and participation in maintaining these facilities, and enhancement of capacity of various players in the sector. The program is demand-driven, with rural beneficiaries making financial and material contributions towards water supply and sanitation facilities, including water points.

The government has developed a new Irrigation Policy and Strategy (IPS) and embarked on a comprehensive National Irrigation Plan (NIP) to revamp the country’s irrigation sector. The objectives of the strategy and plan include development of socially desirable and economically viable irrigation schemes; construction of communal bulk water supply systems; facilitation of irrigation infrastructure-development for improved agricultural productivity; establishment of an Irrigation Development Fund to help farmers access funds for irrigation equipment; facilitation of establishment of water rights that are supportive of sustainable agricultural development; and promotion of sustainable utilization of wetlands.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

In Zambia, urban and rural access coverage for improved water supply and sanitation (WSS) has increased overall since 1990, but Zambia is still unlikely to meet its MDG targets in water and sanitation. Whereas the Government has developed progressive policies and strategies for meeting the MDG goals, robust commitments to sector policies, increased financing for water and sanitation infrastructure, and better coordination amongst stakeholders are critical to maintaining current coverage rates.

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Considerable focus has been placed on devolving the authority to provide WSS service from the central government to local authorities. To better ensure cost recovery, most local authorities in urban areas created commercial utilities (CUs) to provide services. 50 CUs were formed by local authorities – some of which have subsequently merged. Approximately 20 local authorities still provide water and sanitation services through their works departments. The local authorities have a particularly bad service record, with coverage levels actually declining. An independent regulator for water and sanitation, NAWASCO, was established in 1997. NWASCO provides something of a model for WSS regulation in the region with the use of regulatory scorecards, water “WatchGroups” of consumers, and other regulatory tools.

The Zambian government implemented the Water, Sanitation, and Health Education (WASHE) concept in rural areas to better incorporate affected populations into system planning and development and thus to improve the delivery of WSS services. However, these progressive strategies have been marginalized as government funding in the sector continues to be low despite the adoption of the 2005 National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (NRWSSP) for the rural sub-sector.

There is a need for a very deliberate investment policy by government as well as an increase in government funding for the water sector to address the deficits in infrastructure development in relation to the growing population. Financial viability in the sector is continuing to improve with six (6) utilities reaching operational cost coverage by the end of 2006. However, this is adversely affected by the non payment for services by government institutions, and there is a need to further decentralize water rate setting authority to local service providers and CUs in order to cover the true cost of service. Finally, there is a critical need for investments in human resource development.

Donor Interventions and Investment

The German Agency for Development Cooperation (GTZ) is assisting the MEWD with funding for the Water Sector Reform Program (2004–2012) to reform the water sector and provide poor people, especially those living in urban fringe areas, with safe drinking water. The project has provided technical advice to the commercial service enterprises and established a supervisory and regulatory authority at the national level. In line with the requirements of the new Water Supply and Sanitation Act and with GTZ’s support, the regulatory authority established the Devolution Trust Fund (DTF). The fund will assist in supplying water and sanitation in poor peri-urban areas, with a goal to give another 1.7 million people access to water by 2015. DTF will provide funding for “water kiosks” operated by private individuals who have contracts with water utilities and the municipalities.

The USAID-sponsored ZATAC project promotes the application of labor-saving and productivity-enhancing treadle-pump irrigation. The German Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR Germany) is supporting the MEWD’s Groundwater Resources for Southern Province (GReSP) program, whose main objective is to fulfill the need for a groundwater-resources assessment. The program aims to strengthen the capacities of Zambia’s water sector with special emphasis to the field of groundwater by compiling a database and hydrogeological maps.

Irish Aid created an informal donor working group to coordinate efforts in the water sector and support the GOZ’s National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme. USAID has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to provide assessments and projects targeting the provision of water to vulnerable groups, especially those suffering from HIV/AIDS. The Zambia Water Project, a student-led faith-based U.S. NGO, is working with Thirst Relief International and Seeds of Hope International to provide access to safe water through establishment of new wells throughout Zambia.


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See also

External Resources

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