The government plans to intensify measures to bridge the current water supply gap across the country to achieve universal access.
Official figures show the country needs at least 290,038 cubic metres to meet daily water needs in Kigali and other secondary cities, yet capacity is currently estimated at 187,293 cubic metres daily.
The deficit is not inclusive of close to 75,367 cubic metres lost every day due to running water supply systems, which are old and not up to the size required to handle current and future demand.
“We admit that the gap is huge, but current efforts are adequate to seal the gap in three years. The plan is that our investment will increase the volume of water supplied to households to 303,120 cubic metres daily by 2021,” Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente recently told a session at parliament.
The country is banking on multimillion dollar projects to deliver universal clean water access in the next three years after falling short of an earlier target.
Failure to meet the set target of universal access to quality water and sanitation by 2017/2018 under the recently concluded second phase of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) has largely been attributed to funding gaps.
Officials say increased budgetary allocation for the water and sanitation subsector this year, coupled with multimillion funding expected to come in as a loan could help meet and exceed the current nationwide water demand within the three-year time frame.
According to Mr Ngirente, ongoing water projects and those in the pipeline will all be operational by 2021.
Figures show the government allocated Rwf39.2 billion to funding water and sanitation activities during the 2018/2019 budget, money that is expected to be supplemented by another $268 million obtained as a loan from the African Development bank, and OPEC Fund for International Development.
The loan will be used to rehabilitate and extend existing water plants to serve areas most affected by water shortages like Ngoma, Gastsibo, Kirehe, Ngororero and Burera districts.
It will also be invested in establishing new water plants such as Kanyonyomba and Kanzenze, with a combined capacity of 45,000 cubic metres per day, and is expected to end the water shortage in Kigali and the entire Bugesera district.
Currently, operators only meet water demand through rationing according to experts.
“Rationing is a good way of ensuring equity in distribution of available water but it is not the desired solution as it limits access if you consider the sustainable developments goals (SDGs),” said Maurice Kwizera, country director at Water Aid, a non-governmental organisation.
The current rationing system ensures users get water at least twice a week based on their residential areas.
But, operators told Rwanda Today that implementation was problematic as many water distribution networks are decades old, prone to leakages and being used above the capacity they were initially built for. It is estimated that out of more than 1,000 rural water supply networks, 430 cannot fully function without urgent repair.
These problems were highlighted in a report released in July by senators after completing a field tour to assess water access problems. Its findings also questioned official figures on residents’ access to improved drinking water sources, which authorities put at 84.8 per cent in 2014.
The senators said the figure referred to access to water infrastructure and not access to safe drinking water.