Water Supply Shortage in Rwanda

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By Andrea Rubini, WssTP, and Sarah Uwimana, UR-CBE

Rwanda is a landlocked country situated in the great lakes region of Africa. Also known as the land of thousand hills. Rwanda has lakes and rivers, some forming the source of the River Nile. It has several sources of surface and ground water.

Recognizing the key role of water and sanitation in protection of public health, socio-economic development and gender empowerment, the Government of Rwanda has committed itself to reaching very ambitious targets in water supply and sanitation, with the vision to attain 100 per cent service coverage by 2017/18, as per the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) 2. The importance of adequate water supply and sanitation services as drivers for social and economic development, poverty reduction and public health is also fully acknowledged in Rwanda’s flagship policy documents and national goals.

The Water Supply sub-sector context in Rwanda has changed considerably since the adoption of the 2010 National Policy and Strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation Services, which set the target of 100 per cent coverage of rural and urban water supply and 100 per cent coverage of household sanitation by 2020. The EDPRS 2, which was adapted after the approval of the Policy, has set the target of attaining 100 per cent water and sanitation service coverage by 2017/18. Major institutional reforms have also been implemented since then. Rwanda Electricity Corporation (RECO), Rwanda Water and Sanitation Corporation (RWASCO) and the Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) are no longer in existence. The main implementing agency for the Water Supply sub-sector is now WASAC Ltd which was separated from Energy Group.

According to the Water Resources Management Sub-Sector Strategic Plan (2011–2015), the main drivers for water demand in Rwanda are rapid population growth, poverty and climate change. Environmental degradation in wetlands is high due to uncontrolled poor settlements, and water pollution is abundant especially when it comes to floods, as storm water protection systems and disaster management is barely existent. strategies for each water sub-sector. Despite the remarkable achievements of the water sector (The EICV - Enquête Intégrale sur les Conditions de Vie des ménages - 4 survey 2013/14 indicates that 85 per cent of Rwanda’s population use an improved drinking-water source), still several challenges are being faced. These challenges include:

  • the access gap for particularly in unplanned and scattered settlements in difficult, hilly terrain;
  • depleting water resources, resulting in high costs of service provision;
  • gaps in human resource capacity in areas of planning, project management and operation and maintenance;
  • consolidation and strengthening of institutional responsibilities in the sector; and
  • low level of sustainability of WASH services, particularly in rural areas.

 

In urban areas, an increasing number of households have sanitation installation and tap water is could be normally used. However, the distribution of potable water is inadequate especially for the households situated in hilly areas, as families might spend even one continuous month without water, and when it comes, it is available for one day only and go for another month. In addition, may households do not have wastewater treatment which can help them in water supply shortage by recycling water for the possible extent and scopes, and reduce the pollution of the aquifers.

According to the EICV 4 survey (2014), 90 per cent of the urban population are using an improved water source, but only 60.5 per cent have access to it within 200 meters, which is the maximum distance considered to be acceptable for urban habitat in Rwanda. Only 39.4 per cent of urban households have piped water within their dwelling or yard.

In addition, according to Education Statistics (2015), only 13 per cent of pre-primary schools had access to water through a tap water supply system and 9 per cent through a rainwater harvesting system. Some 51.9. per cent of primary schools use rainwater harvesting systems, whereas 35.7 per cent use tap water supplies and 53 per cent of secondary schools use rainwater harvesting systems, while 36 per cent use tap water supplies. 

As shown in the pictures, access to water impose many people to walk kilometers to fetch and carry it. And when they reach the place there is a long queue, it takes 30 minutes up to 2 hours before they get water. Not only that, but also it is expensive. A jerry can of 20 liters cost varied between 50 and 100 Rwandan Franc(RWF) although the bill of WASAC is 323 RFW/M3 .

In rural areas, most household do not have sanitation installation, they use communal borehole with hand pumps that in some cases is shared by up to 150 families, they sometimes have to wait for more than four hours before they can get water. This has implications for their economic productivity.

Available figures WASAC indicate that at least 120,000 cubic meters of water are needed every day to supply the growing population in the city of Kigali. The current capacity is 90, 000 cubic meters. In an ideal world, every city dweller should consume 100 litres per day, but Kigali residents are still relying on 40 liters, when available.

For this area of concern, the WASAC is targeting a three-year period to enable the completion of be major projects that will deal with persistent water shortage.

The ambitious goal of achieving 100 per cent coverage in a short time requires a significant, coordinated effort to mobilize the required funds by both the Government of Rwanda and its development partners. The provision of adequate water supply services is a core element of Rwanda development strategies, as well as the endorsed SDGs.

Water is a vital necessity that people need to survive: water supply development implies social responsibility, as access to safe water and basic sanitation concerns human rights and affects the living conditions of all. Adequate distribution of water is needed, but not only! Water sector sustainable development also need high level of efficiency, by fostering water recycling, and reuse at household and industrial level, as well as improving irrigation efficiency in agriculture.

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