Government has reduced the price of bulk raw water for agriculture and local authorities to enhance agricultural productivity and directed that residents of cities and towns should not pay water charges for the first 6 000 litres per month.
Bulk water for industry and commercial estates has been reduced from US$12,68 for a million litres to US$9,45, while that for commercial agriculture (A2 farmers) has been cut from US$12,19 to US$6,82.
The A1 and communal farmers will now pay US$5 and US$4,50 respectively down from US$7,80 and US$5.
Local authorities will now pay US$6 per million litres of raw water down from US$11,71.
Water Resources Development and Management Minister Sipepa Nkomo, announced the new bulk water prices last week, citing a public outcry over the high cost of water that was militating against farming operations and service delivery to urbanites.
Minister Nkomo said water was a basic human right, adding residents should not pay for the first six cubic metres which translates to 6 000 litres per month. "Anything above that they should pay," he said.
He said the policy was put in place after the realisation that water was a basic human right, which is required for drinking, cooking, washing and personal hygiene.
A 200-litre drum was found to be adequate for an average family per day.
Asked how local authorities were expected to absorb the cost, he said Government subsidises the cost through reducing the price of bulk raw water.
Minister Nkomo said he had consulted with the service providers on the new price and did not expect resistance.
Many bulk water users had been failing to pay for Zinwa's expensive water, leading high rate of defaulting.
The water utility is owed over US$27,3 million by farmers and councils.
Said Minister Nkomo: "The raw water consumers, who comprise industry, local authorities, estates and farmers have cited various reasons for their failure to honour their debts with most of them complaining about the current tariff regime, which they say is too high."
He said Zinwa has to change its agreements with farmers who used to be charged based on allocations. The new arrangement is that consumers would charge based on actual consumption.
"The current billing system, which is based on allocations as per agreements entered into between Zinwa and raw water users, shall also change to usage based billing," he said.
The arrangement does, however, not affect farming estates, as they would still work on allocations.
But if they fail to utilise their allocations they would be obliged to pay a prescribed amount, being the cost incurred by the authority in keeping the water.
He urged water users to pay for its provision to ensure continued availability.