16 March 2017

Tanzania: Groundwater Remains Unexploited Natural Resource

WATER is increasingly becoming a scarce resource in Tanzania due to climate change and environmental degradation.

THE Energy and Water Regulatory Authority (EWURA) has released a report that underscores the need for investment in new water infrastructure and innovative strategies to help lift groundwater use in the country.

As global warming is projected to push significantly regional water surface availability, Tanzania has a serious imbalance in its various water sources.

A latest Water Utilities Performance Review Report for the Financial Year 2015/16; Regional and National Project Water Utilities released in Dodoma recently highlights water sources are predominated by rivers.

The report, which analyses water supply and demand in the country, shows that rivers contribute 50 per cent of the total supply followed by lakes (16 per cent), dams (10 per cent) and 12 per cent each for boreholes and springs.

"Surface water (rivers, lakes, springs and dams) accounts for 88 per cent while groundwater sources add up 12 per cent to the supply," the December 2016 report released this week says. Researchers say that significant climate change can now be felt with global temperature scenarios, that's, some cloudy and rainy spots are now dry and hot.

The report notes that despite major expansion work at the Upper and Lower Ruvu water intakes and treatment plants boosting daily water supply in Dar es Salaam, the level of water supply from a number of rivers had been dropping significantly.

Citing the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Corporation (DAWASCO) that sources water from both boreholes and rivers, it recorded a 17 per cent increase in its annual water supply from the Ruvu River to record 112.05 million cubic metres.

The report shows that water sourced from the river in Iringa dropped to 4.61m cubic metres in 2016 from 4.88 and 5.35 million cubic metres in 2015 and 2014 respectively. In Mbeya Region also water dropped to 6.98 million cubic metres in 2016 from 7.93 and 9.79 million cubic metres in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

In Morogoro Region, rivers supplied 2.75million cubic metres last year slightly below supply of 2.92m and 2.52m cubic metres in 2015 and 2014 respectively. It was, however, evident that there has been little effort to extract underground water in Iringa, Mbeya, Musoma, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Songea, Tanga, Bukoba and Kigoma.

Morogoro Region, which abstracted 0.09 million cubic metres in 2014 from the boreholes, did not record boreholes water supply in 2015 and 2016. With exception of Dodoma Region, which witnessed an increased trend of boreholes producing 12.9 million cubic metres last year, the region water authorities had expanded infrastructure producing 10.95 and 11.61 million cubic metres in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Water science expert, Prof Japhet Kashaigili, from the Morogoro-based Sokoine University of Agriculture observes that groundwater development has concentrated mainly on shallow wells for domestic purposes over a wide part of the country -- mainly rural areas.

"They are also commonly used in the peri-urban fringes where there is no distribution network and places with unreliable supply. Most boreholes are located in the internal drainage basin. The basin is characterized by semi-arid to arid conditions with rainfall less that 550 mm annually," he says.

About 6,000 US dollars is required to drill a borehole in Tanzania and additional 12,000 US dollars for mechanised systems. But experts say the country has not fully explored underground water potential for irrigation.

Considering that groundwater in Tanzania is likely to be the key resource to improve the water supply coverage in many areas under the changing climate, Prof Kashaigili notes.

He says, however, that the development of groundwater should be carefully managed to make full benefit of its potential, to protect its quality and to guard against over-exploitation of the aquifers. Ewura Board Chairman, Prof Jamidu Katima, acknowledges that infrastructure is a challenge calling for active government involvement in rural water supply.

"There is a need for minor water utilities also to merge their financial and technical capacities to unlock underground and surface water potentials," he says. Observers say at least 80 per cent of the total withdrawn water goes for agriculture through irrigation while 15 percent is for domestic use.

Water and Irrigation minister, Eng Gerson Lwenge, said at the launching ceremony water authorities must redesign new approach to identify, protect and redevelop water sources to ensure availability of the precious liquid to all.

"There is no going back. We're seeing increased demand for water but with limited infrastructure," he said at a packed meeting bringing Board Chairpersons and Chief Executive Officers for Regional and National project water utilities, development partners and government officials in Dodoma.

The minister was concerned to note some water sources such as rivers were at potential risk owing to human activities mining, farming and livestock keeping.

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