‘Saving water starts at individual level’

Good water‐saving habits linked to water conservation start at an individual level, which highlights the value of policies that support long-term cultural shifts in the way people think about and use water, a conservation expert has said.

Bulawayo is going through a severe water crisis, which has seen most households going without the precious liquid for more than a week proving that securing water supplies is now a challenge for the local authority.

Due to the acute shortages, people have been forced to adopt various water demand management strategies in their homes to conserve their limited household water.

Speaking at a Water, Sanitation and Energy (WASHen) virtual conference Thursday on the impact of climate change and subsequent water crisis on Zimbabwe’s productivity and capacity utilisation, Senior Policy Officer at the Division of Environment, Climate Change, Water and Land Management at the African Union Commission, Leah Wanambwa, said there was need to conserve water as human activities were placing unsustainable demands on resources.

“The problem of water is not limited to Zimbabwe alone, it is a global issue. The pressure of water is not caused only by climate change but also in the increase of population growth, which leads to deforestation. Deforestation has an impact on climate change and impacts on water catchment areas,” she said.

The WASHen conference was organised by the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) and Bulawayo City Council. 

Wanambwa said people needed to adapt to climate change and water usage itself.

“There should be a shift towards better farming methods, targeted irrigation methods and rain water harvesting while investing in early warning systems. We need to make sure there are efforts to protect wetlands,” said the expert. 

She noted that climate change does not respect boundaries and if not dealt collectively, its effects affected everyone.

“For example, as much as Zimbabwe will do its best to mitigate climate but if other surrounding countries don’t, we will all feel the same effects. We  need a multi-sectoral approach and that starts at a personal level,” Wanambwa emphasised.

“How long does it take for one person to take a shower? We need to try and conserve water. Does one brush their teeth with water flowing? How do we scrub our floors when we are cleaning our homes? Are there leakages in pipes? Sometimes a pipe bursts and for 24 hours water will be gushing out on the street. How is our tap and plumbing system? When flushing is the cistern working well or we flush many times using buckets of water?”

She highlighted that conservation of water was beyond government, as it comes down to how individuals used water.

The conservation expert said due to high usage, water meters were good because people would not open water taps freely. 

“Our challenge is we underestimate resources, we say we have too much resources yet now water has become a scarce resource. Water is our first line of defence and lifeline at this moment of Covid-19 and has always been. When water is scarce other resources such as fishing have also been depleted. This can be stopped unless we practice sustainable methods of saving resources,” Wanambwa said.

Wanambwa stressed the need to learn efficient use of resources and apply right technologies in farming activities.

“Look at agriculture, we can produce a lot in small space and Holland is the smallest country in Europe but can feed the whole world. Yes it has enough water but has made efficient use of its available space.  We have to efficiently use resources and this does not just apply to water but everything else,” she said.

The conservation expert highlighted that water shortages have resulted in conflict across the continent.

“Look at Chad, South Sudan and Sudan itself as examples. There is conflict between farmers and pastoralists because there is competition for grazing land. Even  in Zimbabwe there is conflict between human and wildlife where animals are leaving parks to search for water. 

“Water shortages have caused power shortages  as there is low amount of water in dams that is linked to agriculture upstream, domestic and industrial use of water. These are shortages that are seen across the continent and affect everyone. Due to power shortages we see more deforestation as power is needed and it’s a cycle,” Wanambwa said.

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