Of late, water issues have dominated public debate in Zimbabwe and this is hardly surprising considering the value that human beings derive from this precious liquid. The dominance of water issues is also understandable given that the country is in the middle of arguably the driest season. A world without water is unthinkable yet in Zimbabwe; water issues have remained among the most misunderstood as people either refuse to pay their water bills or deliberately negates to follow proper water utilisation procedures’, justifying their actions by claiming that access to water is a human right, a sacred one at that!
However, while the claim that water is a human right is an indisputable fact, it is also important to remind each other of the strategic importance of water and start treating water as an economic good especially in this age of climate change which is characterised by low rainfall activity as we have witnessed this season.
Evidently, there is still a long way to go before consumers, more importantly irrigating farmers, domestic users and industry understands that it is our attitude towards water and water related issues that have more bearing on the fate of our water sector than any other factor.
Water is a precious resource and while the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) is committed to ensure sustainable management of water resources, it is vital for all stakeholders in the water sector, including consumers themselves, to take an active role in water resources management.
Needless to say, the fact that water is a human right should not be used as an excuse for not paying water bills.
If we agree that water is an economic resource, it should then be easy to understand why the Water Act (Chapter 20:24) makes it mandatory even for raw and ground water consumers to pay for that water.
Sadly, there has been a lot of contention relating to the price of water with consumers of both raw, treated and borehole water querying the legality of water charges.
As a result, a considerable number of consumers have failed to honour their water bills and despite ZINWA’s commitment to ensuring equitable and efficient provision of water for both primary and secondary purposes, this has adversely affected the Authority’s capacity to carry out its mandate.
Those who question the legality of water charges need to be reminded of Section 30 of the ZINWA Act which clearly stipulates that, subject to the Water Act the Authority may, with the approval of the responsible minister, fix charges for raw or treated water, drilling of boreholes and provision of consultancy services.
Moreover, the Authority is not empowered to unilaterally review water charges without providing sufficient justification to the minister who has the discretion to either alter, uphold or turn down the proposed charge or increase.
For the avoidance of doubt, it is therefore vital for consumers to know that all the tariffs for raw, clear and borehole water have gone through this process thus effectively nullifying any claim that they are illegal.
It is sad to note that there are some consumers who continue to resist registering their boreholes and paying for their irrigation water while questioning the legality of those charges.
While raw and borehole water users have used their contestation of the legality of water charges as the basis for their reluctance to pay, clear water consumers have argued, albeit with no evidence, that their failure to pay is due to the fact that water charges are too high.
Unfortunately, it is from this lack of understanding of water charges that a number of consumers have derived false justification for failing to service their water bills.
However, nothing can be further from the truth. ZINWA’s tariff structure especially for clear water where most complains about the price of water have emanated from, is specifically designed to encourage water saving with consumers who use less water attracting a lesser levy than those who use more.
Evidently and contrary to popular opinion, much of the criticism about water tariffs is baseless as it ignores the legal perspective of water management in this Country.
The Authority therefore encourages all consumers to visit ZINWA offices nearest to them and seek clarification.
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