Brace yourself for dry taps as water shortage almost certain

Tuesday June 26 2018

Water

Rwanda is facing the risk of a severe shortage of water countrywide as water levels steadily decrease. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The country is facing the risk of a severe water shortage as levels steadily decrease affecting the country’s supply and distribution network.

This is amid increasing demand for piped water during the months of July to September when the country experiences a dry spell.

Demand is largely driven by an increase in construction activities, which are temporarily halted during the rainy seasons.

However, according to the operators, the water crisis this year could be worsened by the water networks damages caused by the heavy rains experienced between March and May.

Now, private water distributors are raising concern about a failure to fix the damaged water infrastructure across the country in time, which could create a water crisis.

Aquavirunga Ltd, a firm contracted to manage water supply and distribution networks in Musanze, Nyabihu and Rubavu Districts says at least Rwf76 million is needed urgently to fix damages to water infrastructure, which continues to undermine their operations.

Users cut off

“We count over 53,000 users who are completely cut off from the services after a section of the water network got destroyed by heavy rains in Nyabihu.

We’ve raised the problem with the respective district officials since it is an issue that calls for urgency,” Joseph Usabimana, manager of Aquavirunga Ltd.

Like Aquavirunga, Ayateke Star Company, which has operations in more than eight districts, estimates the combined cost of fixing water infrastructure damages from the recent heavy rains to Rwf90 million.

Cyprien Sebikwekwe told Rwanda Today that the funds are needed mainly for civil works and rehabilitation of destroyed water sources as well as supply pipes in Kirehe, Rulindo and Nyaruguru Districts.

He said that although the service had resumed in most networks thanks to emergency rehabilitation works, production had been impacted and could worsen the water problems going forward.

“We have documented all these into a report which we think that respective districts and the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) will look into and do necessary fix in the shortest time possible and possibly before the next rain season,” said Mr Sebikweke.

The country’s water services are shared between WASAC — the national water utility body that offers services in Kigali and Rwanda’s secondary cities — and private rural water operators who run rural water supply and distribution networks in partnership with districts.

Unmet demand

Torrential rains also negatively affected WASAC’s water supply services particularly users in Gatsibo and Nyagatare town, among others.

Apart from constraints around fixing damages of the rains, service during the dry season has always suffered as WASAC and private rural water operators still grapple with huge unmet demand, attributed largely to limited and unmaintained supply infrastructure, affecting production and distribution capacity.

Official figures show WASAC’s daily average water supply in all urban areas stands at 135,000 tonnes, well below its estimated demand of 279,457 tonnes per day.

Rwanda Today could not obtain the exact figure for the private operators, but individual companies’ data suggests that capacity for most networks barely increased in the past three years despite demand having almost doubled especially in fast urbanising areas and commercial centers.

In most instances this compelled operators to stop connecting households to the water networks only prioritising institutions like schools, government offices, schools, police and army barracks as well as hospitals among others.

Mr Sebikwekwe who doubles up as the head of the forum of private operators in the rural water and sanitation sector told Rwanda Today the only option left was setting up communal water access points as they could not guarantee water availability at household levels with the declining volumes.